A 60-year-old Israeli woman went to an emergency room complaining of chest pain. Doctors found she was suffering from a wasabi-induced “broken heart syndrome” — a condition sometimes seen in people who have recently lost a loved one.
Doctors at Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba say the woman had mistakenly consumed about a teaspoon of wasabi at a wedding, thinking it was avocado.
That accidental consumption was followed by unexpected chest pressure that spread to her arms for several hours, though it still wasn’t enough to make her leave the wedding. The pain later subsided, according to a case study published in BMJ Case Reports.
Feeling weakness and general discomfort the next day, though, the woman finally decided to seek medical care, according to the study.
A point-of-care ultrasound, a type of ultrasound used at a patient’s bedside for diagnostic purposes, showed some dysfunction in her heart’s left ventricle, according to the study, which is consistent with takotsubo cardiomyopathy, also known as “broken heart syndrome.”
Broken heart syndrome is typically the result of sudden stress, such as the death of a loved one or intense fear in a situation. The lower part of the left ventricle in the heart, which is the main source of pumping blood throughout the body, balloons during contractions. Doctors typically use beta blockers, which slow down heart rate; angiotensin-converting enzyme, known as ACE inhibitors, to lower blood pressure, or diuretics to treat the condition, according to Harvard researchers.
Broken heart syndrome typically occurs in women ages 58 to 75, and about 5 percent of most women evaluated for a heart attack usually have the reversible disorder, according to Harvard researchers.
Two days after the woman was admitted, images showing how her heart was beating and pumping (an echocardiogram) displayed she has moderate to severe left ventricular dysfunction, according to the study.
Doctors treated the woman with ACE inhibitors, beta blockers and another medicine that reduces blood pressure and fluid around the heart. The woman’s left ventricle showed normal function a month after the wasabi accident.
Researchers are claiming it’s the first report of the condition triggered by wasabi consumption. A Malaysian man reportedly ate sago worms and developed broken heart syndrome in 2014, when researchers suggested food allergies and anaphylaxis could trigger the condition.
Wasabi, Japanese horseradish, is a large root that’s typically served as the green, pungent paste as a condiment for sushi. Because Japanese wasabi is hard to grow, most people are consuming a blend of horseradish, a mix of mustard extract and green food coloring.
In 2015, researchers at the University of California in San Francisco found a “wasabi receptor” in the cellular membrane of sensory nerve cells. When that receptor comes in contact with wasabi, it sends a pain signal to the brain that causes the uncomfortable feeling people experience when tasting the spicy paste.