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How Many Poppy Seeds Are Too Many?

Soaking and cooking poppy seeds can lower their morphine and codeine levels, but those undergoing drug testing may want to avoid them altogether.

October 25, 2013 |
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Acknowledgements

Images thanks to Balanced.crafts and gorgeouxness via Flickr.

Transcript

The same opium poppy that people make heroine out of is the same opium poppy people make muffins and bagels out of. But the idea that poppy seeds could serve as the source of appreciable amounts of codeine/morphine was not given much credence despite the existence of the old European custom recommending to quiet a noisy baby by means of a poppy seed filled pacifier. Not given much credence until a mother tried giving her 6-month-old some strained milk she had boiled some poppy seeds in with the very best intentions of helping the child sleep better. It worked…a little too well, culminating in respiratory arrest, leading to governmental warnings that it's not a good idea.

The cases aren't limited to children. Evidently if you eat spaghetti with a half cup of poppy seeds on top, it can make you a little loopy.

So what's the upper limit of poppy seed consumption that's probably safe? About a teaspoon for every 7 pounds of body weight, so that means someone weighting about 150 pounds, or 70 kilos should probably not eat more than 7 tablespoons of raw poppy seeds at a time. Cooking may wipe out half of the morphine and codeine, though, so that gives you some more leeway when baking. If you soak the seeds for 5 minutes first, and then discard the water before adding them to your recipe you can eliminate another half if you're making some poppy seed filled pastry or something for kids. Otherwise, though, there shouldn't be any risk at usual levels of intake—unless, you're going in for a drug test, in which case you may want to avoid poppy seeds altogether.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Ariel Levitsky.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org.

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Other videos on not overdoing healthy foods include:

In my research I run across reports of reactions to foods that are so rare I figure it's not worth doing a whole video about them, but then I worry that I may be missing an opportunity to help a few people. Like my videos on kombucha (Is Kombucha Tea Good For You?), star fruit (Are Star Fruit Good For You?), nutmeg (Don’t Eat Too Much Nutmeg), tarragon (The Safety of Tarragon), or grapefruit (Tell Your Doctor If You Eat Grapefruit).

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • guest

    What do you make of Dr. McDougall’s comment below…he has this on his website.

    Dr. McDougall

    “A serious psychological disease caused by foods in some people is schizophrenia. In hospital-based studies, some patients have been identified who react with dramatic behavioral changes to milk products and high-gluten foods (like wheat, barley, and rye). Some people with schizophrenia have actually been cured of their disease by changing their diet, to eliminate the trouble-making foodstuff.”

    And from Columbia University…..

    An emerging group of people with gluten sensitivity have such psychiatric and neurological disorders as schizophrenia, ADHD, depression, and bipolar syndrome, and “a higher rate” of some antibodies, said Dr. Peter H.R. Green, director of the Columbia University Celiac Disease Center in New York.

    There are studies out there that have looked at glutens role in mental illness. A future video on this?

    • http://www.facebook.com/signalfire6 Dawn Owens

      Hmmm. Rather reminiscent of the connection between ergot fungus and the hysteria or mental illness that led to the New England witchburnings in the 1700s…

  • HemoDynamic, M.D.

    Another Interesting week of Videos! Thanks!
    Have fun at the ACLM conference. I will try to make it next year!

    You have given me a nice idea, however, for this Thanksgiving–I will replace the Prozac (in the caption below) with Poppy seeds to calm the most savage beast this Thanksgiving.

    “Let food be thy medicine!”
    ;-)

  • Peter

    Can you comment on the recent news recommending reducing carbohydrates and reporting that saturated fat is ok?

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2472672/Is-high-fat-diet-GOOD-heart-Doctors-say-carbs-damaging-arteries.html

    Thanks

    • Toxins

      Nearly a century of research shows just the opposite, and a low fat vegan diet is the only diet thus far to demonstrate that heart disease is reversible on such a diet.
      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/china-study-on-sudden-cardiac-death/

      I wil share with you what I have shared with others on this site regarding saturated fat.

      “Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association

      of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease”

      http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/91/3/535.full.pdf+html

      This Meta-analysis looked at 21 different studies, and came to the conclusion that “there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD [heart disease].”

      Shared by Jeff Novick:

      One major problem with this study is they did not look at any studies where the saturated fat intake was less than 7%, which is the level recommended by the American Heart Association. Most of the diets had saturated fat intakes in the range of 10-15% (or more).

      So, just like the studies that criticize “low fat” diets, but never analyze any diet that is truly low fat and based on the principles of low fat, high fiber, whole plant foods, this study criticizes the impact of lowering saturated fat, but never looked at any diet that truly lowered saturated fat to the level recommended.

      Another problem with the study is what the subjects replaced the saturated fat with when comparing the 2. For many, if not most, it was with either (or products containing) hydrogenated/trans fat, while flour, white sugar and/or mono fats.

      People who replaced saturated fat in their diet with polyunsaturated fat (omega 3/6) reduce their risk of coronary heart disease by 19 percent, compared with control groups of people who do not.

      http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.1000252

      Side Note: Be cautious as replacing saturated fat with the polyunsaturated fat is not what is being advised. We should strive to not add any fat in the form of oil to our diet. The point was just to show that indeed saturated fat is worse than polyunsaturated fat. Eating high omega 6 foods though is not healthful, and we should really be eating more omega 3 “Advice to substitute polyunsaturated fats for saturated fats is a key component of worldwide dietary guidelines for coronary heart disease risk reduction. However, clinical benefits of the most abundant polyunsaturated fatty acid, omega 6 linoleic acid, have not been established. In this cohort, substituting dietary linoleic acid in place of saturated fats increased the rates of death from all causes, coronary heart disease, and cardiovascular disease. An updated meta-analysis of linoleic acid intervention trials showed no evidence of cardiovascular benefit. These findings could have important implications for worldwide dietary advice to substitute omega 6 linoleic acid, or polyunsaturated fats in general, for saturated fats.”

      http://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.e8707

      Lastly, studies on all-cause mortality trumps findings for subsets such as CHD and CVD. Most all-cause studies demonstrate a direct relation between saturated fat intake and all-cause mortality and the lower the better. Here is a list of studies showing just this.

      “the results of this study support earlier observations that dietary intakes low in SF or high in FV [fruits and vegetables] each offer protection against CHD mortality. In addition, however, our data suggest that the combination of both high FV with relatively low SF intake offers greater protection against both total and CHD mortality than either practice alone.”

      http://jn.nutrition.org/content/135/3/556.long

      “The major finding of the present study is that the average population intake of saturated fat and vitamin C and the prevalence of smokers are major determinants of all-cause mortality rates. Saturated fat and smoking are detrimental, but vitamin C seems to be protective in relation to the health of populations…The potential effect of changes in saturated fat, vitamin C and the prevalence of smokers can be illustrated as follows. A change in saturated fat of 5% of energy is associated with a 4.7% change in age-adjusted all-cause mortality rate (Table 3).”

      http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/29/2/260.long

      “A high RRR pattern score, which was associated with high intake of fat and protein and low intake of carbohydrates, increased the risk of death. Subjects with a pattern score belonging to the highest quintile obtained on average 37·2 % of their energy from fat and 37·6 % from carbohydrates and thus did not meet current dietary recommendations (Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, 2002). Food groups that contributed to this unfavourable pattern of energy sources were red meat, poultry, processed meat, butter, sauces and eggs, whereas a high intake of bread and fruits decreased the pattern score.”

      http://journals.cambridge.org/download.php?file=%2FBJN%2FBJN93_05%2FS000711450500111Xa.pdf&code=6fbdbd311fb43ee23a840b894cced959

      From the National Academy of Science:

      “Saturated fatty acids are synthesized by the body to provide an adequate level needed for their physiological and structural functions; they have no known role in preventing chronic diseases. Therefore, neither an AI nor RDA is set for saturated fatty acids. There is a positive linear trend between total saturated fatty acid intake and total and low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol concentration and increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). A UL is not set for saturated fatty acids because any incremental increase in saturated fatty acid intake increases CHD risk”

      http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10490&page=422

      “The saturated fatty acids, in contrast to cis mono or polyunsaturated fatty acids, have a unique property in that they suppress the expression of LDL receptors (Spady et al., 1993). Through this action, dietary saturated fatty acids raise serum LDL cholesterol concentrations (Mustad et al., 1997).”

      http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10490&page=432

      From the editor in chief of the American Journal of Cardiology.

      “As shown in Figure 1, most of the risk factors do not in themselves cause atherosclerosis [heart disease]…The atherosclerotic risk factors showing that the only factor required to cause atherosclerosis is cholesterol.”
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3603726/

  • HereHere

    I’d like to know if poppy seeds taken with grapefruit juice make it more potent. I would think you’d want to reduce your poppyseed intake well below the guidelines if you are consuming grapefruit juice (unless you require a serious pain killer).

  • barbarabrussels

    Great! Apart from the codeïne and morphine is there any nutritional value to be found in these little specks?

  • Guest

    Dr. Greger,
    During four weeks I ate a tablespoon of poppy seeds each morning with my oatmeal. This was part of my monday through friday routine but during the fourth week I began to feel dizzy, a severe case of vertigo and anxiety attacks. I immediately stopped eating the poppy seeds. I’d never had these symptoms before and was curious if the poppy seeds could have this effect on a 150 lbs person?