It’s glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency season in Rome

24 May

It is!

See, that’s why you read my blog. So you can get the medical education you missed out on.

No, seriously. This is something I hadn’t ever heard of until I moved here. Every year, right around the end of April/beginning of May, you’ll start seeing signs printed out in Word and taped to grocery store entrances, that look sort of like this:


Yes, indeed, my dear friends, you always know fava beans are back in stores when the stores begin to post warnings about it. That’s so people with glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency—that’s favism to you and me (an X-linked recessive hereditary disease, for all you Mendel’s square people out there)—can be forewarned and therefore forearmed. But don’t take it from me, take it from Wikipedia:

G6PD deficiency is closely linked to favism, a disorder characterized by a hemolytic reaction to consumption of broad beans, with a name derived from the Italian name of the broad bean (fava).

I’m not going to make fun of favismo. That would be rude, insensitive, and just downright wrong. I’m not here to make light of a genetic disease. I am simply an observer whose birthday is May 1 and therefore has a particularly strong link to fava beans.

So if anyone ever asks you before you reach for that ginormous green bean, “Ma non hai favismo, vero?” you can respond, “Beh, in realtà si chiama carenza di glucosio-6-fosfato deidrogenasi, ma comunque grazie, no.”

You can thank me later. Oh and BTW, don’t forget the pecorino romano. xoxo

Oh Gawd. Please warn the pretty people in L.A. about favism, will you?


5 Responses to “It’s glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency season in Rome”

  1. Beth May 24, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

    My husband tells me that GP6D most common human enzyme defect, present in 400 million worldwide, mostly male. Interestingly it confers protection from malaria. I always wondered about those signs…and why ‘selling’ the beans was a problem.

  2. May 24, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

    I was talking about it just today with my husband.
    He told me they served “fave” and bresaola for lunch on his flight from Paris.
    I said “That’s odd. What about people with favism? Wouldn’t this be dangerous?”
    I always heard a person with favism could have a reaction just being close to broad beans.
    I don’t know how much this is true.
    But being allergic to some food and having had really bad reactions in the past, I am always sensitive to this subject.
    Anyway, no signs about broad beans here in Amsterdam! They don’t sell broad beans, or they don’t have word and a printer available or they just don’t care? 😉

  3. Shelley Ruelle May 24, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

    I know that was my thing too. When I was doing my in-depth medical research today, I couldn’t find anywhere that breathing the air around fava beans causes problems. Joking aside though (I promised I wouldn’t joke) I’ve been told that if a person who has it touches them, they could have a reaction. Or, quite possibly they’re trying to weed out the sneaky ones who eat one without anyone noticing. Oh wait… why would someone who has it eat one? Oh well. Probably some law on the books.

  4. Shelley Ruelle May 24, 2013 at 7:40 pm #

    Same story in the States. That’s why I always found it interesting that it’s so prevalent here. Oh by the way who’s that cute red-headed girl in your avatar picture? Man I bet she puts too much drama in men’s lives. BAAAAHAHAHAHAH Oh Lord.

  5. Jano Janotech May 27, 2013 at 8:19 am #

    There are signs like those in many supermarkets, I don’t know if touching fave, you could have a reaction (I think no. unless you eat it).
    Anyway, I think they put signs to prevent lawsuits in case someone (who’s favist but doesn’t know) eats a fava and dies for hemolytic crisis…

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