Woman Mistakes Wasabi for Avocado, Develops ‘Broken Heart Syndrome’

By GQ Pan

A 60-year-old woman ended up in the emergency room, suffering an acute heart condition after overeating wasabi. She thought it was the similarly colored avocado.

The unusual medical case was reported in a recent article published in the British Medical Journal. The unnamed patient, while attending a wedding in Israel, mistook the sushi condiment as the creamy, green Mexican fruit and took a mouthful. The unfortunate act brought almost immediate discomfort, but the women decided to stay at the wedding, and the pain eventually began to die down.

“After she ate the wasabi, she felt a sudden pressure in her chest radiating to her arms, which lasted [a] few hours,” described the case report. “She decided not to leave the wedding, and the pain started to subside.”

The next day, however, she had to seek medical attention as she “felt weakness and general discomfort,” according to the BMJ report. She was diagnosed with takotsubo cardiomyopathy, which is better known as “broken heart syndrome.”

The authors of the report describe the broken heart syndrome as a cardio dysfunction that “typically occurs in older women after sudden intense emotional or physical stress.” It temporarily hinders the heart’s ability to pump blood around the patient’s system efficiently, causing symptoms similar to those of a heart attack. It was first documented some 20 years ago by Japanese researchers, who coined the name “takotsubo,” a pot-like fishing device traditionally used to lure and trap octopus.

Takotsubo cardiomyopathy has gained the ‘broken heart’ nickname because the condition is often associated with emotionally traumatic events, such as the loss of a spouse, relative, or close friend. In 2017, a 62-year-old woman from Texas was diagnosed with takotsubo cardiomyopathy after the death of her dog.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of takotsubo cardiomyopathy triggered by wasabi consumption,” the authors said in the study, adding that the underlying causes of takotsubo cardiomyopathy are “still a mystery.”

The good news is that the woman recovered well after treatment and rehab at a cardiac center. A month following her diagnosis, she was discharged from hospital in good health.

Nevertheless, there is no need to fear wasabi or stop eating it. As the researchers noted, the amount the woman took was “unusually large” for wasabi consumption. Japanese food lovers should be fine as long as they don’t eat their green mustard paste all at once.