Unripe papayas

  • Health
  • Wednesday, 28 Sep 2005

I like to eat papaya, especially when it is slightly unripe. Unfortunately, my mother advises against eating unripe papaya for fear of miscarrying. She believes I must eat ripe papayas, which will aid in better milk production. Is this another myth?  

When peeling the skin from an unripe papaya, you see small droplets of white latex oozing out from the fruit. The latex contains an enzyme known as papain, or vegetable pepsin. All papayas contain the white latex; unripe ones have more. 

In animal feeding studies carried out at the National University of Singapore, pregnant and non-pregnant rats were fed with ripe papaya juice, crude papaya latex or water. The results as reported by the medical scientists indicate that crude papaya latex induced spasmodic contraction of the uterine muscles in the rats similar to that caused by the hormones oxytocin and prostaglandin (British J. of nutrition, August 2002). 

For mothers to start labour, the body produces prostaglandin and oxytocin. Synthetic prostaglandin and oxytocin are commonly used to induce or strengthen labour contractions. 

Many South-East Asian cultures use semi-ripe papaya to make soups for young girls when they reach puberty and for nursing mothers after childbirth.

It is a traditional belief that pregnant women and those who are trying to become pregnant should refrain from eating unripe papaya to avoid miscarriage. 

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