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Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2005 Sep;60(3):129-35.

Bitterness and toxicity in wild yam (Dioscorea spp.) tubers of Nepal.

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Laboratory of Food Biochemistry, Division of Applied Bioscience, Graduate School of Agriculture, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan.


Wild yams make a significant contribution to diets of tribal people in Nepal. However, these wild tubers are unpalatable, taste bitter, produce inflammation and show occasional toxicity. Four wild yam species, which are eaten after primary treatment by Nepali aborigines, were analyzed for bitter and toxic principles. Bitter components were identified as furanoid norditerpenes (diosbulbins A and B). Diosbulbins A and B were found in the range of 0.023-0.046 and 0.151-0.442 g kg(-1), respectively. Results demonstrated that diosbulbin B, with an average value of 0.314 g kg(-1), was the principal bitter compound as compared to diosbulbin A (0.037 g kg(-1)). The toxic alkaloid, dioscorine and histamine (an allergen) were not detected in these tubers, whereas cyanogens (as HCN equivalent) content were found ranging from 3.2 to 6.0 ppm. Our results revealed that Nepali wild yam tubers are not toxic varieties, as they do not contain either toxic dioscorine or histamine and cyanogens contents were satisfactorily below the safety limits. The inflammation and occasional toxicity observed could possibly be due to the presence of high level of oxalate in these tubers. Domestic cooking methods were found to be very efficient in removing bitterness, thus making the bitter yams palatable.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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