What is an aflatoxin

Mushroom Poison in Food: Why Aflatoxins Are So Dangerous

In around 1960, veterinarians wondered about a strange disease in poultry that manifested itself in liver damage, weakness and loss of appetite - killing 100,000 turkeys in the UK alone. The cause of this "disease" baptized symptoms turned out to be poisoning by metabolic products of the widespread watering can mold Aspergillus flavus and his relative Aspergillus parasiticus. Not only British turkeys were affected, but poultry around the world.

It soon turned out that the poultry diseases of the 1960s were by no means the first case of this poisoning with the apparently highly toxic substances named aflatoxins after their producer. In the previous decades, rats, guinea pigs and even hunting dogs had been affected by similar symptoms. The cause at the time: peanut flour in commercial feed preparations. Nuts are probably also responsible for the nut-nougat creams contaminated with aflatoxins from the tests by Stiftung Warentest in 2016 - the hazelnut harvest in Turkey was bad this year, but inferior goods from other producer countries were used in the products. Nuts and nut products are more often contaminated with aflatoxins.

This article is contained in spectrum compact, in the realm of the mushrooms

Aflatoxins - Hard to Avoid

The connection between aflatoxins and liver damage has been well documented in animal experiments, but also in humans. Not only is there a statistical association between exposure and hepatocellular carcinoma - one of the deadliest cancers in the world -; Studies also show that helping populations chronically exposed to aflatoxins reduce the level of poison in their diets decreases the incidence of liver cancer. Conversely, in people infected with hepatitis, the risk of cancer from aflatoxins is increased by around 30 times. The liver, however, is not the only organ that is threatened: Lung cancer can also be caused by aflatoxins, more precisely from mold spores that are inhaled with dust and which also contain the poison. The cause of cancer development through aflatoxins lies in their structure - and above all, how it is changed in the body.

Aflatoxins are a group of difuranocoumarin-derived secondary metabolites in mold. There are at least 20 of them, of which aflatoxin B1 is arguably the most toxic to humans. It is one of the most powerful carcinogenic substances there is. The B and G aflatoxins are found in plant-based foods, aflatoxins M1 and M2 as their metabolic products in milk. Aflatoxins only become dangerous when the body metabolizes them in order to remove them.

In order to excrete large organic compounds, the body usually first has to make them water-soluble, which is why our cells have the enzyme cytochrome P450. It depends on all possible connections oxygen atoms - this fate affects everyday substances such as caffeine, but also polycyclic aromatics and mycotoxins.