PETALING JAYA: The Health Ministry is refuting a news report claiming that consumption of papaya leaf extract can cause organ failure and lead to death as it contained a toxic substance.
Health Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah acknowledged that papaya leaves contained the chemical cyanogenic glycoside, but in such minute quantities that in practice, its consumption did not pose a danger.
"Someone who weighs 60kg has to consume 12,000 papaya leaves at a single sitting for acute poisoning to occur," he said in a statement on Sunday.
He said that humans had to consume 1mg of the substance for every 1kg of body weight before it reached toxic levels.
Dr Noor Hisham also said tests conducted by the Institute for Medical Research (IMR) indicated that the consumption of papaya leaves did not show any side effects on internal organs.
He was responding to a news report alleging that the consumption of papaya leaf could lead to death.
Dr Noor Hisham said that cyanogenic glycoside or "bad sugar" was a chemical found in at least 2,000 plant species including edible plant produce such as tapioca, almonds and cloves as well as fruits such as apricots, peaches, plums and cherries, among others.
He added that the chemical was the plants' natural defence mechanism against pests and insects.
The consumption of papaya leaf extract is a traditional remedy used in the treatment of dengue fever patients.
Dr Noor Hisham also said that clinical trials by IMR showed that the consumption of papaya leaf extract was effective in raising the platelet count of patients.
"The increase in platelet count is only one of many effects of those suffering from dengue fever. Research is still being done on the uses of papaya leaf extract," he said, adding that the Ministry was not using it in Government hospitals.
He said the Ministry had registered several products containing papaya leaf extract under general health indications and traditional products categories.