Monday, July 15, 2013

Rant: Don't Drink & Durian

The infamous Durian fruit, native to Southeast Asia, has a reputation for possessing one of the most foul odors you will ever smell. However, there are plenty of people, especially in Southeast Asia, who love the taste, and even the smell, of this fruit. In Indonesia, Durian flavored condoms are even very popular. You can find Durians locally in some Asian grocery stores, and its thorny exterior is very distinctive and recognizable. For some people, they might have to be really drunk before they were willing to try a Durian.

I was intrigued this weekend to learn from The Drinks Business that some students from the National University of Singapore have created the world’s first wine made from Durian. Allegedly, the wine has a rich creamy color and a buttery taste, and does not taste like the fruit itself. The students hope to make it commercially available, though I wouldn't expect to see it on U.S. shelves anytime in the near future. It would likely start in Southeast Asia and could take years before it reaches us.

However, this raises an important health issue, that drinking and Durian don't mix. What do I mean? Well, drinking alcohol while consuming Durian fruit can be dangerous, and potentially even lethal. For a long time, this has been considered a bit of folklore, and though there were alleged incidents of deaths caused by alcohol and Durian, most seemed to believe there was no rational basis for the belief. But there is at least one scientific study which provides support to this belief.

A New Scientist article reported on the results of a study by John Maninang and Hiroshi Gemma from the University of Tsukuba, Japan who sought to determine if durian and alcohol did pose any danger. The results seemed to show that the high sulfur content of Durian significantly impaired the breakdown odd alcohol in the body. More specifically, the Durian "inhibited the activity of aldehyde dehydrogenase - an enzyme that clears toxic breakdown products - by up to 70%." This enzyme is the liver's primary defense against the toxic effects of alcohol, so that if the enzyme is prevented from doing its job, a person could technically die from alcohol poisoning.

So it might be better to be safe than sorry, and don't drink alcohol while consuming Durian fruit.

However, what about this Durian wine? It should be safe as the fermentation process significantly reduces sulfur levels, to trace amounts, so its effect on the enzyme should be nominal. So if the Durian wine ever ends up on U.S. shelves, it will be safe to consume.

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