Falafel Faves and Favism
★ I flagged the Palestinian taxi driver with some relief: the streets were deserted, the restaurants in the old city of Jerusalem were shuttered for Shabbat and I was growing increasingly peckish. After I convinced him, with some effort and considerable diplomacy, that I did not want a tour of Bethlehem, he admitted defeat with good humor and took me to a little Palestinian restaurant where I had the most delicious falafels– golden nuggets of chickpea goodness drizzled with tangy tahini atop mounds of fluffy pita bread, still warm from the oven.
★ Did you know that falafels were originally made from fava beans by the Egyptian Copts, who become vegans during Lent? But fava beans can trigger life-threatening anemia in a fraction of people of Mediterranean descent, including Jews, so chickpeas have been used as a safer replacement. Known as favism, the disorder is due to inherited variants in the enzyme G6PD, which stands for glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, a somewhat less tasty mouthful than falafel.
★ In red blood cells, G6PD replenishes an important anti-oxidant, glutathione that guards against damaging free radicals generated from certain compounds (like vicine and divicine) found in broad beans. People with G6PD deficiency, nearly all males since the gene is located on the X-chromosome, lack this protective mechanism and their damaged red cells gives them anemia, jaundice and occasional hemolysis. For extra credit: why did these harmful mutations persist in some populations instead of being weeded out by natural selection? It turns out that G6PD mutations protect against malaria, likely by hastening clearance of red blood cells infected with the malarial parasite Plasmodium.
★ To make falafel, start with dry chickpeas. Fresh bought works best (save those fossilized pellets from the back of your pantry for ammunition in case of squirrel invasion). Soak the chickpeas overnight in generous excess of water and they will reward you by becoming pleasingly plump and doubling in quantity. One cup dry chickpeas should be plenty, two will feed a crowd. As any responsible scientist would do, I repeated my falafel experiment for n = 3 before publishing. Many thanks to my enthusiastic students for confirming the protocol and consuming the product! For the recipe see: https://madamescientist.wordpress.com/2015/09/15/falafel-faves-and-favism/
🙂 i will try them
Wow. I knew that being a carrier for sickle cell anemia helped protect against malaria, but I didn’t know about G6PD. Your falafel looks amazing too. I’m hungry now!
Yes, it’s similar isn’t it, Sandy B ? The red cells are too fragile to host the malarial parasite.
super site 🙂 by the way, the domain for your site is available: https://www.namecheap.com/domains/registration/results.aspx?domain=madamescientist.com
eaten while viewing fauvist art.
Came for the falafel, learned a bunch about something I only kind of knew.
I wonder how many other mutations like this occur that may protect against malaria now…
You can buy glutathione supplements, but I think the research shows it doesn’t do any good. Perhaps the best way to increase or maintain glutathione levels is by taking NAC (N-acetyl-L-cysteine).
(I think you already knew that, just throwing it out.)
fascinating! Christian Nalletamby you’d like this one..
Justen Robertson it’s baba ganouj (ganoush?) in the background: grilled eggplant, mashed up with lemon juice and tahini.
Jim Carver if the anti-oxidant supplements can be assimilated into cells, then they would do wonders!
A great article. Your too funny about the fossillied pellets. I got a laugh out of that.
Panah Rad thanks for checking on the domain name. Think I should go for it? 🙂
Jesse H we all have stuff in the back of the pantry, right? 😉
Hahahaha. I had stuff I think Jimmy Hoffa had
All beans have their problems, some worse than others. I’ve found that outside of fermentation, sprouting works very well. If you take the lowly pinto for example, sprouting for a day or two reduces the cooking time by half and reduces the amount of flatulence by at least ten fold.
I’ve never found any beans bought from the store that wont sprout. You only go as far as little tails coming out. Try it. You’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.
We often sprout whole mung beans and find that they cook faster. I haven’t tried sprouting pinto, red beans or chickpeas.
Rajini Rao absolutely. Trust me. If you like the name, and one day you might use it for other projects or just to grow your site further, you need to have that domain. I have thousands of domains registered… sure, my annual bill looks ugly but it was worth it 🙂
OK, you’re the expert Panah Rad . Besides, it’s cheap!
Flafel with chickpeas = hummas?
Interesting about the G6PD deficiency being selective for malaria protection. Just like the textbook case of the sickle cell heterozygous allele having a selective advantage by protecting against malaria.
Justen Robertson Absolutely no difference. The only thing is they cook faster and have less problems. I’ve been doing it now for years and hate that I’m in a rush and have to cook them ‘straight’. If the temps in the house are really warm it can take as little as a day. I use a sprouting screen that fits under a Mason jar lid. Fill to about 2/3, rinse and soak overnight then drain. When you see the little tails coming out, they’re ready.
What this does is activate enzymes in the sprouting seed and catabolizes the phytotoxins.
Rajini Rao domains are cheap. that’s true. haha. $10-14 a year (which is what I pay) is really nothing. Funny enough, they used to be cheaper. I used to pay $5 a year a few years back. lol
Hah, lure people in with food and exotic locales, and teach them something.
Jane Millerick Reminds me of my childhood “gateaux piments”, Chilli cakes or Dal Fritters.
It was not chickpeas, but some “dhall” or dholl.
Still selling it in the streets of Mauritius, I believe.
Looking for some recipes.
Rugger Ducky I see that you are on to my devious designs.
Christian Nalletamby would love the recipe if you find it. I’ll check out YouTube as well.
Found the recipe for gateaux piments: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-pDJL16TNAE
It’s made with a dhal that we call channa dhal (large yellow split peas).
Here’s another one” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=711BP0dAJHI
Rajini Rao That’s my latest line of research in studying Dupuytren’s disease. I think I might be making some progress at looking at antioxidants/anti-inflammatories and primarily TNF-a inhibitors. Some of the Chinese medicinals look good and have been written about in the literature. Primarily looking at red sage (dan shen), peony and Angelica .
I am taking these as a formula of my own (decoction) and have seen some positive results. It’s still early though, and disappointment is the name of the game with DC. It’s not the whole picture, but reducing oxidative stress is one vital key. I’ve slowed the progression, but reversal is, so far, out of reach.
so yum….love to try that….
Rajini Rao Sorry, just posted privately (I’m scared 🙂
Surprised to see that google found English answers to “gateaux piments” 🙂
Here is an Australian version, video + text
Rajini Rao it’s funny because I avoid food posts in general, but read this one because, well, you 🙂
And as usual, a great, informative post! I wonder what it is in fava beans that triggers the problem (?)
I thought they were still made, partially, with fava beans.
By the way weren’t the Pythagoreans also vegetarians who avoided fava beans?
Hudson Ansley apparently, chemicals like vicine and divicine. Presumably where the name Vicia faba (fava beans) came from.
According to Wiki: Vicine is an alkaloid glycoside found in fava beans. Vicine is toxic, causing the disease favism, in individuals who have a hereditary loss of the enzyme glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase. Divicine is the name of the aglycone of vicine. Fava beans also contain the related 6-hydroxy- alkaloid glycoside covicine, whose aglycone is isouramil.
Vicine was first isolated by Heinrich Ritthausen. Classified as a pyrimidine, its structure and that of divicine has been described. The formation in Vicia Faba of vicine and covicine has been investigated.
Víktor Bautista i Roca I did chuckle when I read about the Pythagoreans and beans although I thought that it was a specific ban against eating beans, because: In both legend and mythology, Favism has been known since antiquity. The priests of various Greek-Roman era cults were forbidden to eat or even mention beans, and Pythagoras had a strict rule that to join the society of the Pythagoreans they must swear off beans. This ban was supposedly because beans somehow resembled the genitalia, but it is possible that this was because of a belief that beans and humans were created from the same material.
I didn’t know that about Fava beans. Maybe that’s why I don’t like them (not Mediterranean). However, I love falafel so much that I have been known to eat them until I cannot move.
Here in Catalonia we love them. The most typical recipe is with onion and peas (and bacon or something similar if you eat meat), and some mint leaves. However, I prefer them the most easy way: fresh, raw, and with just a pinch of salt.
Aw, and even if we are Mediterranean and eat lots of fava beans, I’ve never heard about a single case of favism.
Rajini Rao about fava beans resembling genitalia according to Pythagoreans, in Catalan “fava” still means the penis glans. There are some vulgar expressions mentioning it, as “no em surt de la punta de la fava”, “it doesn’t come out of the end of my fava”, as a answer to “why don’t you do it?”
That’s fascinating information! Víktor Bautista i Roca
Rajini Rao by the way, on philosophy class I was told the reason fava beans were forbidden is because one of Pythagoras’ friends died and he dreamt of him reincarnated as a fava bean.
Not sure you saw this scary story, Rajini Rao , a neonatal problem because the mother had eaten fava 5 days before.
Is it a scare people should be aware of, or is this case really an outlier?
I looked up the prevalence of favism and it is not rare: affects 400 million people world wide, about 140 distinct mutations are known. Some cause mild anemia, others cause more severe hemolysis. Of course, the mutations affect more than sensitivity to fava beans: certain oxidizing drugs (aspirin) can be toxic too (see the medcomic in the pix).
Edit: In northern India (Chandigarh), “newborn screening was initiated and is currently ongoing for three disorders, that is, congenital hypothyroidism, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, and glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency. Prevalence of these disorders is found to be 1:1400 for congenital hypothyroidism, 1:6334 for congenital adrenal hyperplasia, and 1:80 for G6PD deficiency.”
That last pic, it looks so delicious!
Christian Nalletamby it looks like newborns are commonly screened for this deficiency in many countries. For example, I know that PKU deficiency screening is routine (phenylketonuria). So maybe, not so scary but just being aware.
Rajini Rao fantastic explanation, thanks!
Btw- I should say that I actually make an exception for any of your food posts, which I’ve always found them to be interesting.
Of course I had to find how this was diagnosed. It seems that a filter paper spot test is all that is needed to determine the deficiency. That is a really good thing. Not really expensive and labs can make their own reagents. http://sites.path.org/dx/files/2012/04/FST-Guidebook.pdf
Corrected TNG-a to the correct TNF-a
I SO love falafel I can’t begin to describe it. Also spinach pies and tabouleh . . .
Pam Adger thanks for figuring that out. Looks like the test only needs a drop of blood and the product of G6PD is naturally fluorescent!
I wonder if they test all newborns in the US.
Hudson Ansley thank you 🙂 The reason I write these foodie posts is purely therapeutic. Somehow, playing with words and images helps me relax.
YES, to all three Adam Stein !
It seems only with family history are they screened.
Ah, good to know Pam Adger .
Back when I was working on artificial blood research, I knew about sickle cell and malaria. I didn’t know about G6PD.
I was in Toronto once for a conference. I stumbled upon a falafel place just before the lunch rush. The falafels were freshly cooked and to this day, I haven’t found any tastier. That’s saying a lot as there are tons of excellent places for falafel in Chicago.
I bet it’s hard to beat falafels at the Rao residence.
Chad Haney isn’t it great how we remember those chance encounters with delicious food? I can’t say that mine were that great, but you’ll have to visit to check them out yourself!
Did I mention hummus? Love hummus. And babaganoush, if it’s roasted over and open flame and has that gorgeous smoky taste.
Great information with humor!! That’s Rajini Rao ! Thanks 🙂
You bet Rajini Rao. I missed out on the Society of Nuclear Medicine meeting in Baltimore this past spring.
Chad Haney I hope the fallout wasn’t too bad.
Fabulous. I love Falafel. ‘Cept, being Italian, I also love Fava beans. Now if you could just fugure out how to also tie in Fauvism, I’d be even more amazed. Except that one isn’t edible! Would love to go to Jerusalem.
Giselle Minoli ha, I missed out on Fauvism although james kalin did bring it up 🙂
You would love Jerusalem!
Hmmm missed that. Apologies james kalin you beat me to it. Anthony Hopkins would be proud!
great minds Giselle Minoli.
Science and food in a single post – well done!
I bought some parsley with plans to make some falafel, you have just reminded me to go soak some chickpeas and I will make them tomorrow. Thanks
What an interesting, scientific, historic, foodie related post. Thank you Rajini Rao
I repeated my falafel experiment for n = 3
Somehow you forgot to mention the number of squirrel invaders per iteration.
For lunch today we had salad, chicken tandoori, naan bread and dipping sauce. I’d love to try these~^^
Quite a tour de force. From Palestine to G6PDH deficiency!
The falafels look very yummy. I wish I could have some. It was also interesting to read their history and origins.
These are just the best! Rajini Rao I’m drooling 🙂 Wonderful post!
The ink in some dyes used for henna tattoos can trigger hemolysis in high-risk G6PD individuals. Obviously, it’s far less common compared to the myriad of drugs that could exacerbate the condition (ironically including some anti-malarial drugs). Other rare precipitating causes are high-dose vitamin C (from supplements more so than regular intake from foods, which is surprising since it’s an antioxidant) and vitamin K1.
As a side “fun fact”, glutathione is the most abundant low molecular weight peptide in mammalian cells.
Glutathione works well as a reducing agent because it contains cysteine, which is the most reactive natural amino acid with its nucleophilic sulfhydryl/thiol group.
Rajini Rao Fascinating topic, Rajini. Thanks!☺
So Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency is the most common enzyme deficiency worldwide…
I found an interesting study, where we can read: “Favism is most common in persons with G6PD class II variants, but rarely it can occur in patients with the G6PD A–variant. Fava beans are presumed to cause oxidative damage by an unknown component, possibly vicine, convicine, or isouramil.”
In “Genetics”, we can read: “The gene mutations affecting encoding of G6PD are found on the distal long arm of the X chromosome. More than 400 mutations have been identified, most being missense mutations. Most of the variants occur sporadically, although the G6PD Mediterranean and the G6PD A–variants occur with increased frequency in certain populations .”
There is also a useful table with synonyms for fava beans. I’m Italian and love fava beans, of course…☺
Always nourishing to read one of your posts and the comments:-)
Good to hear that you had such a fine time in Bethlehem, too:-)
Johnathan Chung thanks for the interesting information about tattoo ink. Even if rare, there are more people getting tattoos these days so it’s good to raise awareness. Also, great caveats about dosing oneself with Vitamin C or K. Re. glutathione, there are now fluorescent molecular sensors that can gauge redox potentials in cells- a useful tool for cell biologists.
Thanks for the extra information, annarita ruberto ! What’s your favorite way of preparing fava beans? 🙂
Nick James hi there…thanks for the virtual visit 🙂
with a nice Chianti?
Everything is better with a nice Chianti 😉
Tis look delicious some I have eaten, some I want to taste.
Rajini Rao A very simple way: mashed fava beans with wild chicory (cicorielle in Italian):
Favism is a more complex condition that I had thought:
«RESULTS:»…«The first attack of favism occurred before 10 years of age for 31 patients (81.6%) and in the springtime for 35 patients (92.1%). Thirty-three patients (86.7%) regularly ate fava beans before the attack, and 35 (92.1%) resumed eating fava beans within 1-17 years after the attack without symptoms. Two patients (5.2%) experienced a single recurrence of symptoms. No evidence of hemolysis was found in the four patients checked after fava bean re-ingestion.
CONCLUSIONS: Patients resumed eating fava bean for various reasons, and the recurrence of symptoms was uncommon. An infectious agent such as a virus may play a role in the development of favism.»
«acute haemolytic anaemia which occurs in about 20% of G6PD deficient subjects after ingestion of fava beans. Since not all G6PD deficient subjects are sensitive to fava beans, the possibility has been suggested that extra erythrocytic factors may play an important role in the susceptibility to haemolytic favism.»
«Fava beans have been linked with anemic conditions since ancient times. That is why ‘favism‘ is used as a generic name for G6Pd enzyme deficiency. However, not all people with this condition react to fava beans, and other legumes in the same way.»
«Favism: A condition characterized by hemolytic anemia (breakup of red blood cells) after eating fava beans (Vicia fava) or being exposed to the pollen of the fava plant. This dangerous reaction occurs exclusively in people with a deficiency of the enzyme glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD), an X-linked genetic trait. However, not all G6PD-deficient families appear at risk for favism, indicating the additional need for a single autosomal (not X-linked) gene to create the susceptibility to favism of G6PD-deficient persons.»
«An acute condition suffered after ingestion of certain species of beans, for example, Vicia faba, or inhalation of the pollen of its flower; characterized by fever, headache, abdominal pain, severe anemia, prostration, and coma; it occurs in some people with genetic erythrocytic deficiency of glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase. Chance exposure to the Vicia faba, by its impact on the phenotype of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, impinges on the expression or the gene, an example of incomplete penetrance.»
«The condition occurs primarily in persons of southern Italian extraction and is treated by blood transfusion and avoidance of fava beans and pollen. See also glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency.»
The gene for glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) is located on the X chromosome; hence, it is an X-linked inherited disease that primarily affects men. It can have clinical effects in homozygous women and a proportion of female heterozygous carriers.
It is thought that the susceptibility to favism is determined by a combination of the particular G6PD polymorphism (predominantly the Mediterranean form), and by variability in other enzymatic mechanisms, particularly in the metabolism of L-dopa (found in abundance in broad beans), and vicine, convicine and isouramil (the so-called ‘anti-nutritional factors’ that are present in broad beans).
Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency is the most common enzymopathy of man of clinical significance. It is thought to affect more than 400 million people worldwide.
Only a proportion of G6PD sufferers is prone to favism and this proportion is variable between populations. In a Thai study, favism was found in 3.6% of G6PD-deficient children. It therefore appears to be a relatively rare manifestation of a common genetic polymorphism.
The condition had been thought to occur only in the Mediterranean variety of G6PD deficiency. The highest prevalence of G6PD deficiency is found in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, tropical and subtropical Asia, Papua New Guinea and various Mediterranean locations. However, there have been reports of the condition affecting children in Hong Kong, Thailand and Iran. This reflects common ancestry among populations in different parts of the world due to migration as well as the large number of genetic polymorphisms that constitute the variable alleles causing G6PD deficiency.»
«For many with Favism, coming into contact with the pole of Fava Bean plants can cause hemolytic crises and possibly death. Because of the availability of hemoglobin meters some people with Favism have been able to determine that many other legumes also cause varying degrees go hemolysis, soy beans being among the worst.»
«Treatment of favism
The best treatment includes not to eat this food and take it away to prevent pollen inhalation.»
«Favism (G6PD deficiency). Favism is an inherited disease in which a person lacks an enzyme called glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD). When these people eat fava beans, they develop a condition called hemolytic anemia. This anemia causes red blood cells to break apart and block blood vessels. When such blockage occurs in the kidneys, it can result in kidney failure and even death. Although favism is usually detected in childhood, adults can be affected as well.
G6PD deficiency is rare, occurring mostly among people of Mediterranean, African, and Southeast Asian descent, but others can be affected as well. Your physician can perform a blood test for G6PD to determine whether you are at risk. If you find you have inherited G6PD deficiency, your dietitian can help you locate other foods that may be of concern, and can help you plan safe and healthful menus. For more information on favism, see Resources at the end of this article.»
«Hereditary deficiency in human Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD)is estimated to affect about 400 million worldwide. The highest prevalence rates are found in tropical Africa, the Middle East, tropical and sub-tropical Asia, some parts of the Mediterranean and in Papua New Guinea.»
«favism: a condition especially of males of Mediterranean descent that is marked by the development of hemolytic anemia upon consumption of broad beans or inhalation of broad bean pollen and is caused by a usually inherited deficiency of glucose-6-phosphate»
«Favism, a hereditary disorder involving an allergic-like reaction to the broad, or fava, bean (Vicia faba). Susceptible persons may develop a blood disorder (hemolytic anemia) by eating the beans, or even by walking through a field where the plants are in flower.
The known distribution of the disease is largely limited to people of Mediterranean origins (Spaniards, Italians, Greeks, Armenians, and Jews). Susceptibility to favism is inherited as a sex-linked trait and appears to be closely related to glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency .»
«An acute hereditary condition in which the ingestion of certain species of beans, or the inhalation of the pollen of their flowers, causes fever, headache, abdominal pain, severe anemia, prostration, and coma.»
Agree to all! Falafel is great.
ps. ” plump and doubling in quantity” is wrong, they will double on volume.
arromazam pepe haha, yes..it would be amazing if the chickpeas underwent mitotic division 🙂
Rajiniji, wa kya bat hai!
There is a lot of stuff in the post I did not understand. But Rajini Rao the food part is totally understood.😄
mandar khadilkar haha, food is a universally understood language is it not?
The first time I ate this I thought – “round version of masala vada without the masala”
That is new info for me about the fava beans and anemia. Thank you :).
Rashmi Pahuja yes, just like vada! Also, there was reference in the comments above to a similar Mauritian recipe using channa dal instead of chick peas (reflecting Indian influence).
Delicious, Rajini Rao 🙂 I have been once with a ship to Ashdod, and from there through Bethleem and Jerusalem by taxi, but I haven’t have the time to stay outside at night, so I missed the famous falafel you describe here. We’ll use your recipe!
I hope you may be remember me although I have been forced by my new O.S to change my Alfonso Ramirez + profile and e.mail, but not my personality.
Cheers for you and the tastely meat balls you just posted!
Hi Alfonso Ramirez , good to see you back. Of course I remember you, thanks for the comment -although they are tasty, meatless balls 🙂
Rajini Rao Yeah, Rajini. The word was taught to me by a Norway girl years ago. She said: “Meat balls” are a typical norwegean food… I ( wrong ) supposed that it was the general noun for any eddible ball!
In my language they are ” albondigas”.
Which is the correct name in english,please?:)
Alfonso Ramirez falafel 😉
Hudson Ansley Thanks. A lot better than albondiga. :<))
Albondigas: a new word added to my culinary vocabulary!
Rajini Rao Could the key of this arabic-spanish ( an may be sanscrit) be the ” bond” inside?
(BTW, I have never thought of this before)
i thought i would find the whole recipe here
country or Jordan city of naersarath …
Your work & comments by fans make it interesting to see
Rajini Rao,you are lucky to have such marvelous experience Thanks for your sharing in great details. Like it
dutta. tari thank you, I appreciate your comments! 🙂
I will.try them
Hi Rajini Rao nice to see you after a long time .How’s life with you dear ? wishing you a wonderful time ahead lots of love and best wishes ,kisses
I wi tried
Hi Good Night ji Friends ji
hi kay karat aheas?
Rajini Rao Hi Rajini how are you?
very nice i am hungry for your food
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