Curious reaction to honey 'can cause heart arrhythmia'

Image caption Honey made from the pollen of rhododenrons can contain a chemical called grayanotoxin

Eating honey made from the pollen of rhododendrons can trigger heart arrhythmias, warn experts.

Cardiologists told a European meeting about an unusual case of what is called "mad honey poisoning" in two patients they had treated.

The father and son from Turkey developed heart-related symptoms after eating honey from the Black Sea region.

Although very rare, experts say people should be aware of this possible risk.

'Mad honey poisoning'

Mad honey poisoning occurs after people consume honey contaminated with grayanotoxin, a chemical contained in nectar from the species Rhododendron ponticum and luteum.

Grayanotoxin interferes with chemical messages in the body - in this case, the heart.

Both father and son were admitted to the Izmir emergency department at the same time with symptoms of vomiting and dizziness.

Heart traces known as ECGs revealed they had potentially dangerous heart rhythm disturbances.

The men made a full recovery and were discharged from hospital after a few days.

Dr Ugur Turk, who treated them, said wide distribution of honey around the world meant that physicians anywhere could potentially be faced with honey poisoning - although it was rare.

He said anyone buying honey from Turkey - and particularly the Black Sea area where bees feed on rhododendrons - might want to first consume a small amount and leave it a few days before eating any more to check that they do not experience strange side effects.

There are more common causes of arrhythmia, such as stress, caffeine, tobacco, alcohol and certain medications, including some diet pills and cough and cold medicines.

Not all arrhythmias are dangerous but if you think you have one, you should get it checked by a doctor.

Symptoms include palpitations or awareness of your heartbeat, tiredness, dizziness and fainting.

Doctors attending the European Society of Cardiology meeting heard how people who drink too much cola risk arrhythmias.

One case described was that of a 31-year-old woman from Monaco who, since the age of 15, had stopped drinking water and drunk only cola.

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