Dr. Thomas Dwan - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Thomas Dwan

Are Lychees Bad For You?

Also Known As: Litchi, Chinese cherry



Short answer

Lychees are rich in vitamin C, B-vitamins, and antioxidants, with high water content and low calories. They offer health benefits but should be eaten in moderation due to their natural sugars and potential risks, such as hypoglycemia if overconsumed, especially on an empty stomach. People with diabetes or those at risk of hypoglycemia, as well as those taking certain medications or with allergies should be cautious. Balanced consumption is important for harnessing their health benefits without adverse effects.



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Long answer

Nutritional Composition of Lychees

Lychees, small tropical fruits with a sweet and fragrant flavor, not only add a unique touch to a fruit salad but also bring with them a rich array of nutrients. Understanding the nutritional composition of lychees can empower individuals to make informed decisions about including them in their diets. Let's delve into the nutritional elements found in lychees.

Macronutrients: A single lychee (approximately 10g), offers a modest calorie content with a concentration of carbohydrates, which includes dietary fiber and natural sugars. They contain negligible amounts of fat and protein, making them a low-fat and modest-energy food option suitable for those monitoring their fat intake.

Microvitamins: Lychees are an excellent source of vitamin C, an antioxidant that supports immune function, skin health, and overall cellular repair. A 100-gram serving of lychees provides more than 100% of the daily recommended intake of vitamin C for adults, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). They also supply a good variety of B-vitamins, including vitamin B6, niacin, riboflavin, and folate, which are essential in energy metabolism and neurological health.

Minerals: When it comes to mineral content, lychees offer potassium, which supports heart health by helping to regulate blood pressure. The fruit also contains smaller amounts of other minerals like phosphorus, magnesium, and copper, which are vital for bone health, energy production, and maintaining healthy blood vessels, respectively.

Antioxidants: Beyond vitamins and minerals, lychees are rich in polyphenolic compounds and flavonoids such as rutin and epicatechin, which contribute to their antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are crucial in protecting the body from oxidative stress and inflammation.

Water Content: Lychees have a high water content, making them a hydrating choice in hot weather or after exercise. This high-water content also contributes to their low-calorie density, providing a feeling of fullness with fewer calories.

Dietary Fiber: Although not particularly high in fiber when compared to other fruits, lychees do provide a source of dietary fiber, which is beneficial for digestive health. Fiber helps regulate bowel movements and may contribute to the prevention of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

It’s important to note that while lychees offer substantial nutritional benefits, they should be consumed in moderation due to their natural sugar content. This is especially important for individuals monitoring their blood sugar levels or those with diabetes.

In summary, the nutritional profile of lychees is composed of:

  • Calories: Low
  • Carbohydrates (majorly from sugars)
  • Dietary Fiber: Moderate
  • Fats: Negligible
  • Protein: Low
  • Vitamin C: Very High
  • B-Vitamins: Good variety
  • Minerals (Potassium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Copper): Variable amounts
  • Antioxidants: Rich in polyphenolic compounds and flavonoids
  • Water Content: High

When considering their nutritional benefits, lychees may be a worthy inclusion in a balanced diet. For those interested in the detailed nutritional breakdown per serving size, consulting a database like the USDA FoodData Central can provide comprehensive data for portion-specific analysis.

References to scientific studies and expert opinions are critical to ensure the reliability of the nutritional information. For instance, research published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism highlighted the rich vitamin C content in lychees and how this contributes to their antioxidant activity; and data from the USDA FoodData Central lends credible insight into their macro and micronutrient contents.

Risk of Hypoglycemia from Excessive Lychee Consumption

Lychees, a tropical fruit with sweet white flesh, are not just delicious but also packed with vitamin C, vitamin B6, niacin, riboflavin, folate, copper, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and manganese. However, despite their nutritional benefits, there is a concern about the risk of hypoglycemia, especially when consumed excessively on an empty stomach.

Some studies, including a notable one in the Lancet Global Health, have linked lychee consumption in large quantities to acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) in children. This condition can lead to symptoms of hypoglycemia — a state of low blood sugar — which may include weakness, fatigue, confusion, seizures and, in severe cases, unconsciousness.

The suspected culprit is a naturally occurring amino acid found in lychees called hypoglycin A, also known as methylenecyclopropylglycine (MCPG). This compound has been shown to disrupt fatty acid metabolism, leading to a rapid drop in blood sugar levels. This issue becomes critical when the body's glycogen stores are already low, typically due to prolonged periods without food, as nocturnal hypoglycemia could potentially occur.

In addition to MCPG, lychees also contain high amounts of fructose, which can contribute to their hypoglycemic effect. Unlike glucose, fructose does not stimulate insulin secretion which could further exacerbate low blood sugar levels if consumed in large quantities.

  • Limitation of lychee consumption to a few pieces per day, especially by children and individuals with diabetes or those prone to hypoglycemia.
  • Avoiding eating lychees on an empty stomach, particularly after fasting overnight or for extended periods.
  • Ensuring a balanced diet with adequate glycogen sources, such as complex carbohydrates, to mitigate any potential impacts of hypoglycin A.

It's essential for individuals to consume lychees in moderation and as part of a balanced diet, particularly in areas endemic to encephalitis outbreaks where the direct link between lychee consumption and the disease has raised local public health concerns.

While the risk of developing hypoglycemia from lychee consumption is present, awareness and proper dietary management can reduce potential health complications. For those who can enjoy lychees without adverse effects, this fruit can be a healthy and tasty addition to the diet when eaten in reasonable quantities.

Allergic Reactions and Sensitivities to Lychees

When considering the role of lychees in our diet, it's essential to understand that, like many foods, they can cause allergic reactions or sensitivities in some individuals. While lychee allergies are not among the most common food allergies, they have been documented and can cause a range of symptoms that should not be ignored. Awareness of these potential reactions can help lychee lovers and those trying this fruit for the first time to make informed choices about their diets.

Recognizing Allergic Symptoms:

  • Skin Reactions: These may include hives, itching, or eczema. Skin reactions are often visible and can provide an early warning sign of an allergy.
  • Respiratory Issues: Symptoms such as sneezing, nasal congestion, or wheezing suggest that the body is responding negatively to a substance.
  • Gastrointestinal Discomfort: Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea can occur if the digestive system is reacting to an allergen.
  • Anaphylaxis: This is a severe, potentially life-threatening reaction that can cause difficulty in breathing, a drop in blood pressure, and loss of consciousness. While rare, it requires immediate medical attention.

Should any of these symptoms occur after consuming lychees, it's crucial to discontinue eating them immediately and consult a healthcare provider.

Understanding Histamine Intolerance:

Some individuals may not have a true allergy but rather a sensitivity related to histamine intolerance. Lychees, like other fruits, contain histamine, a compound involved in the body's immune response. Those with histamine intolerance may experience symptoms similar to allergic reactions when consuming high-histamine foods.

Scientific Evidence:

Research into lychee allergies is limited but growing. A study published in Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Research highlighted a case where a patient experienced anaphylaxis after consuming lychees (Choi et. al, 2017). It's crucial that more research be done to fully understand the potential allergenic properties of this fruit.

Genetic Predisposition and Cross-Reactivity:

Individuals with a family history of food allergies may have a higher risk of developing an allergy to lychees. Additionally, there's the possibility of cross-reactivity, where proteins in lychees resemble those in other allergens, leading to a reaction in someone already allergic to similar substances.

Managing Sensitivities:

  • Dietary Log: Keeping a record of food intake and symptoms can be helpful in identifying patterns related to lychee consumption.
  • Allergy Testing: If an allergy is suspected, specific testing by a certified allergist can confirm a lychee allergy.
  • Epinephrine Auto-Injectors: For those diagnosed with a severe lychee allergy, carrying an epinephrine auto-injector can be life-saving in the case of accidental exposure.

Remember, the ingestion of lychees should always be approached with caution for those with known sensitivities or allergies. Consultation with a healthcare provider is advised to ensure safety and well-being.

Potential Interactions with Lychees and Medications

When considering the incorporation of any new food into your diet, it's important to recognize that interactions with existing medications can occur. In the case of lychees, here's what you should know.

Lychees contain a range of bioactive compounds like polyphenols, which can potentially interact with certain medications. Although comprehensive studies specifically focusing on lychee-drug interactions are limited, understanding the general properties of the compounds within lychees can help highlight potential concerns.

Anticoagulant Medications:

Foods containing Vitamin K, like lychees, can affect the efficacy of anticoagulants such as warfarin. Vitamin K plays a key role in blood clotting, thus consuming large amounts of lychees may potentially decrease the effectiveness of anticoagulant drugs. However, consistency in dietary intake of Vitamin K can also be a strategy to maintain stable medication response.

Antidiabetic Drugs:

Lychees have a naturally high sugar content, which could impact blood sugar levels. For those on antidiabetic medications, such as insulin or sulfonylureas, this could require careful monitoring and possible dosage adjustments to avoid hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia.

Metabolism Modifying Medications:

Certain compounds in lychees, particularly those involved in fruit metabolism, could theoretically interfere with drugs that are metabolized by the liver. Cytochrome P450 enzymes, which process many drugs, could potentially be affected by the same compounds found in lychees, thus altering the drugs' intended effects.

It's important to note that each individual may react differently and the extent to which lychee consumption might affect medication efficacy can vary. The information provided here is not exhaustive and should not replace professional medical advice. If you're taking medication and are concerned about potential interactions with lychees or other foods, it's crucial to consult with a healthcare provider or a registered dietitian.

Staying informed and vigilant about the foods you eat while on medication is a key part of managing your health. Routine checkups and conversations with your healthcare provider can help to identify any potential food-drug interactions and keep your treatment plan on track.

In summary, while lychees are generally considered safe to eat for most individuals, those taking medications should be aware of potential interactions. Consulting a health professional is the best course of action to ensure that your diet and medications are in harmony.

Beneficial Antioxidants and Vitamins in Lychees

Lychees, tropical fruits known for their fragrant sweetness, are packed with a variety of antioxidants and vitamins that can offer significant health benefits when consumed as part of a balanced diet. The primary antioxidants found in lychees include:

  • Oligonol: This low molecular weight polyphenol, found abundantly in lychees, is known for its anti-aging properties and has been studied for its potential to improve blood flow and reduce fatigue.
  • Vitamin C: Lychees are a rich source of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that helps protect the body from free radicals and supports the immune system. One lychee fruit provides a substantial percentage of the recommended daily intake of this essential vitamin.
  • Rutin: This bioflavonoid strengthens blood vessels and can help prevent various cardiovascular disorders. It also aids in the absorption of vitamin C, enhancing its effectiveness.

When it comes to vitamins, lychees offer a variety of them that are crucial to maintaining optimal health:

  • Vitamin B6: This vitamin plays a significant role in protein metabolism and cognitive development. It is also very important in maintaining the health of lymphoid organs that make your white blood cells.
  • Niacin: Also known as Vitamin B3, niacin helps convert food into energy and is essential for the health of your skin, blood cells, brain, and nervous system.
  • Riboflavin: Vitamin B2 or riboflavin is important for body growth and red blood cell production. It also aids in releasing energy from carbohydrates.
  • Folate: Critical for DNA synthesis and repair, folate (vitamin B9) is also paramount in aiding rapid cell division and growth, thus making it a crucial nutrient for pregnancy and infancy.

Studies supporting the health benefits of lychees' antioxidants and vitamins include:

  • A study published in The Journal of Nutrition indicates that Oligonol from lychees has potential anti-obesity properties.
  • According to research in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, the rutin in lychees may provide neuroprotective effects.
  • The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has published findings on the impact of vitamin C-rich fruits, like lychees, on reducing the duration and severity of cold symptoms.

It's important to keep in mind that while the antioxidant and vitamin content of lychees contributes positively to one's diet, balance and moderation are key. Excessive consumption of any food, even those with health benefits like lychees, can lead to unintended health consequences.

Frequently asked questions

While lychees are not highly acidic fruits, individuals with acid reflux or GERD should consume them with caution due to their natural sugars that could potentially trigger reflux symptoms. It's best to observe individual tolerance and consult with a healthcare provider.

Yes, lychees contain vitamin C, an antioxidant that supports the production of collagen, which contributes to skin health and may help reduce the signs of aging. Their water content also promotes hydration, beneficial for maintaining healthy skin.

Lychees can be included in a weight loss diet due to their high water content, low-calorie profile, and the presence of dietary fiber, which can promote satiety. However, they should be consumed in moderation because of their natural sugar content.

People prone to kidney stones should be mindful of their lychee consumption. While lychees are not particularly high in oxalates, their moderate potassium content should be considered if a restriction is recommended. Consulting a healthcare professional for personalized advice is advisable.

Ask a question about Lychee and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • hypoglycemia symptoms
  • allergic reactions
  • digestive discomfort
  • respiratory issues

Possible long-term side effects

  • interference with anticoagulant medications
  • potential impact on antidiabetic drugs
  • possible interactions with metabolism modifying medications

Ingredients to be aware of

  • natural sugars
  • hypoglycin a (mcpg)
  • fructose
  • vitamin k


  • rich in vitamin c
  • assorted b-vitamins
  • contains polyphenols and flavonoids
  • hydration
  • low in fat

Healthier alternatives

  • fruits with lower sugar content
  • fruits with less hypoglycin a
  • low-histamine fruits

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Ceres Litchi Juice Blend

  • Rich in Vitamin C
  • No added sugar
  • Preservative-free
  • Cholesterol-free
  • Gluten-free
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 12-12-2023

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 12-12-2023

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