21st December 2012 - You either love them or loathe them but even if you only ever eat them at Christmas you wouldn't expect sprouts to land you in hospital. However, that's precisely what happened to one Scottish patient who ate too many Brussels sprouts this time last year.
The leafy green vegetables are, along with broccoli and spinach, bursting with vitamin K, a chemical the body uses to promote blood clotting, but too much is not a good thing for people who are on blood thinners (anticoagulants).
Patients taking blood thinners are monitored once or twice a week using the International Normalisation Ratio (INR), which measures how long it takes their blood to clot.
The man who ate too many Brussels was fitted with a mechanical heart (long term Ventricular Assist Device) in the autumn of 2011 after developing advanced heart failure. Despite increasing his anticoagulants, doctors struggled to keep his blood appropriately anticoagulated during the weeks before Christmas. He was admitted to the Golden Jubilee National Hospital, near Glasgow, where the device was fitted, with a low INR, meaning his blood was not anticoagulated enough.
On investigation, doctors at the hospital - home to Scotland’s National Advanced Heart Failure Service (SNAHFS) - figured out the patient had been indulging in too many sprouts. His INR rate stabilised after he stopped eating them.
The case has been reported in a festive edition of the Medical Journal of Australia.
Don't eat all your greens
Dr Roy Gardner, Consultant Cardiologist within SNAHFS, says in a press comment: "Patients who are taking anticoagulants are generally advised not to eat too many green leafy vegetables, as they are full of vitamin K, which antagonise the action of this vital medication."
Jill Young, Chief Executive of the Golden Jubilee National Hospital, added: "Whilst we think this is possibly the first-ever festive admission to hospital caused by the consumption of Brussels sprouts, we were delighted that we were able to stabilise his INR levels."
It's not just Brussels sprouts which can be a hazard. Scientists from Upstate Medical University in New York are warning of the dangers of Christmas trees after they observed a peak in respiratory illnesses in the weeks either side of December 25th.
Their research showed that moulds on conifers may be responsible and they suggest, if you are susceptible to allergens, you hose down your real tree before bringing it into the home and take it out as soon as your celebration is over.
Families that choose an artificial tree have their own set of concerns. If stored improperly the researchers say artificial trees can also introduce mould and dust into your home, aggravating allergies.
Golden Jubilee National Hospital, Clydebank - press release
The hazards of brussels sprouts consumption at Christmas: Stephen J Pettit, Alan G Japp and Roy S Gardner
Upstate Medical University, State University of New York - press release
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