Latina, seductive, banned in the US and what is tonka bean?


The tonka bean is a seed that captivates the taste and smell. The chefs enhance the flavor of various dishes with it, the perfumers create fragrances with their aromatic notes of vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. However, it is prohibited in some countries due to its potentially harmful effects on health. What does the coumarin or tonka bean hide?

Far from being the most dangerous tree in the world, Dipteryx odorata is a species of tree native to South America that grows in tropical climate zones of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Guyana, Peru, and Venezuela. Its seed, called tonka bean or coumarin, is highly valued for its flavor and aroma.

The tonka bean is black and elongated, with a wrinkled appearance, and in addition to captivating the taste and smell, it is characterized by its high level of coumarin, a chemical compound that is also found naturally in cinnamon, in plants such as clover sweet or woodruff, and in fruits such as strawberry, cherry or apricot, among many others.

Due to the high concentration of coumarin in tonka bean, this fruit and the use of its derivatives in food have been banned in different countries.

Why is tonka bean dangerous?

The coumarin has potential hepatotoxic, laboratory tests on rats found that can damage the liver. However, cases of liver toxicity caused by coumarin are rare, which is why it is studied what factors may be determined for the damage to occur in certain individuals.

Culinary preparations with tonka bean usually have such a small proportion of this ingredient would have to eat up to 2,400 portions to reach the maximum recommended, according to estimates published by the Office for Science and Society at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

Coumarin, present in tonka beans, is widely used in the perfumery, as well as in toiletries. Towards the end of the last century, coumarin was among the ingredients of 57% of deodorants sold on the European market. It is also used to flavor and perfume pipe tobacco.

Humans are exposed daily to a maximum of 0.06 mg/kg of coumarin, present both in food and in perfumes and deodorants, according to a study by the British Industrial Biological Research Association - BIBRA, for its acronym in English. , published in the scientific journal Food and Chemical Toxicology.

No adverse effects of coumarin have been reported in susceptible species in response to doses that are more than 100 times the maximum daily amount consumed by humans, states BIBRA research.

Other research from the University of Osijek, Croatia, notes that the long-term hepatotoxic effects of coumarin, studied in rats, "are not clearly confirmed yet in humans. However, the evidence of hepatotoxicity of coumarin should be taken into account when discussing the health safety of coumarin intake," indicates the study published in the scientific journal Foods.

In the US, the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has prohibited the use of coumarin in the food industry since 1954. The regulations establish that any food "containing added coumarin as such or as a component tonka beans or tonka bean extract is considered adulterated. Despite this prohibition, different media report that it is not unusual to acquire tonka beans for gastronomic use. Illegally, of course.

Coumarin is sometimes used as a substitute for vanilla to make vanilla extracts or flavorings due to its aromatic similarity and lower production cost.

For this reason, the FDA has issued import alerts on the so-called "Mexican vanilla" due to the presence of coumarin. The US agency warns about products that are usually "labeled in Spanish as Vanilla extract or Vanilla, and that could contain this substance among its components.

The use of natural oils and tonka bean extracts as natural flavorings is prohibited by the health authorities of Mexico and the Southern Common Market (Mercosur). Likewise, the technical regulation of Mercosur limits the amount of coumarin in food and beverages to 2.0 mg/kilogram, which cannot be added "as such to food products or flavorings/flavorings. It can appear in the food product in a natural state, after the addition of flavorings/flavorings prepared from natural raw materials, the document clarifies.

For its part, in Spain, Royal Decree 1771/1976 prohibits the use of aromatic agents that contain in their composition coumarin or Tonka bean.

Does coumarin also cure?

Although it is recommended to avoid excess coumarin due to its toxicity, this compound is being studied for its potential benefits to health. A report from the University of Milan, published in the scientific journal International Journal of Molecular Sciences, gives an account of the different benefits of coumarin and its derivatives that have been verified and continue to be investigated.

  • Antioxidant: coumarin would function as an antioxidant in biological systems, by preventing oxidative stress.

  • Anticancer: Studies have been carried out on coumarin derivatives for the treatment of cervical and prostate cancer.

  • Antibacterial: different types of coumarin and derivatives have been tested for their antibacterial capacity, especially against bacteria resistant to antibiotics.

  • Antifungal: Coumarin's antifungal abilities have been investigated to treat yeast infections of the genus Candida.

  • Antiviral: different studies have shown that coumarins are active against viruses such as HIV, influenza, hepatitis, dengue, and chikungunya.

  • Anti-inflammatory: coumarin derivatives have been studied for their anti-inflammatory and analgesic activity.

  • Neuroprotective: Coumarins are also being investigated to treat Alzheimer's.

  • Anticonvulsant: coumarin derivatives could be effective for the treatment of epilepsy.

  • Anticoagulant: dicoumarol, a derivative of coumarin, present in sweet clover, led to the study and discovery during the first half of the 20th century of the anticoagulant capacities of coumarin and with it the creation of warfarin, a medicine used to prevent the clots.

  • Antidiabetic: the ability to stimulate the creation of insulin has been studied with some compounds derived from coumarin.

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