Nzu Also known as calabash chalk or Calabash clay is a natural product, locally prepared from clay, sand and other non-nutritional components with or without salt. Nzu has been reported to contain heavy metals and is widely used as a traditional remedy for morning sickness during pregnancy and breastfeeding in most African countries, including Nigeria.
WHAT IS THE CALABASH CHALK (NZU) MADE UP OF?
The major component of calabash chalk is aluminum silicate hydroxide. It also has an excessive amount of lead. In fact, the amount of lead in food should not exceed 1 mg/kg, but the amount of lead present in calabash chalk has been reported to be between 10–50 mg/kg. Other substances present in calabash chalk include Aluminum, organic pollutants, silicon, iron, alpha lindane, chromium, arsenic endrin, and endosulfan 11.
BENEFITS OF NZU (CALABASH CHALK)
A physician, Omoteemi Olakunle has stated that the popular belief, which exists on the consumption of calabash chalk, popularly known as ‘Nzu’ about its prevention of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy is false. In a chat with DAILY POST, on Sunday, he stated that Nzu is not a remedy for nausea and vomitting in pregnancy but rather could lead to low levels of potassium and iron in the body as it contained excess lead. The medical expert explained that because of its excess lead, nzu intake also leads to muscle weakness, nerve damage, inflamed stomach, poisoning and blood shortage.
DISADVANTAGES OF NZU (CALABASH CHALK)
IT HAS NO NUTRITIONAL BENEFIT
Calabash chalk contains no nutrition. It will not give you any of the essential nutrients your body needs. It is deficient in carbohydrates, dietary fiber, protein, fats, or vitamins. it deprives you of healthy nutrition and fills your system with toxic elements instead.
IT IS EASY TO GET ADDICTED TO CALABASH CHALK (NZU)
Believe it or not, it is easy to get addicted to calabash chalk, just like you can with nicotine or drugs. The salty and earthy smell that reminds you of the first downpour of rain on dry soil drives you to consume more and more.
INTAKE OF TOXIC CHEMICALS
Calabash chalk is made up of aluminum silicate hydroxide, a type of kaolin, it also contains 10-50 mg/kg of lead – an amount that exceeds the 1 mg/kg recommended value of lead in food. In addition, it has rich amounts of arsenic, chromium, aluminum, silicon, alpha lindane, endosulfan 11, and other organic pollutants. These chemicals are known to cause poisoning and tissue damage in the body.
RISK OF INFERTILITY
According to a 2018 study, scientists found that regular or prolonged consumption of calabash chalk in animal models may alter growth rate and cause changes to the uterus – which could be damaging to the reproductive system. The experts advised women of reproductive age to desist from consuming calabash chalk.
IT COULD LEAD TO DEVELOPMENTAL ISSUES IN CHILDREN
Exposing toxic minerals such as lead to infants and growing children can cause slowed growth and developmental issues – as lead easily crosses the placenta to the fetus during pregnancy. One study tested the blood of the umbilical cord of pregnant women who consumed calabash chalk and found high levels of lead, which suggests that lead could have been easily transferred from mother to infant during pregnancy.
IT COULD HARM BONE HEALTH
Pregnant women who consume calabash chalk may unknowingly pass lead to their infants during pregnancy, and an accumulation can cause delayed bone growth.
INCREASED RISK OF DIGESTIVE ISSUES
Due to the high composition of toxic chemicals, regular consumption of calabash chalk can cause constipation, stomach upset, nausea, and vomiting. Researchers found edema and bleeding in the stomach of animal models fed with 40 mg/ml of calabash chalk for 14, 21, and 28 days respectively.
INCREASED RISK OF ANEMIA
Regular and prolonged consumption of calabash chalk can cause anemia, especially in women of childbearing age.
One study found that this chalk changed the concentration of hemoglobin, red blood cell count, platelet count, and erythrocyte sedimentation rate in rats.
RISK OF PARASITIC INFESTATIONS
Most calabash chalk producers only think of monetary gain and will go to any length to make profits, which may include mining the chalk from soil surfaces contaminated with feces and organic matter. Chalk derived from this method may contain the eggs of parasitic organisms like tapeworm and other nematodes, leading to infestation.
IS CALABASH CHALK (NZU) GOOD FOR PREGNANT WOMEN?
In pregnancy, many women crave non-food items like clay and ice. This condition is called Pica a Latin name for magpie (Pica pica), a bird that eats almost anything. It occurs when iron and zinc are deficient, which may arise if nausea and vomiting limit the amount of nutrients you’re taking in. Non-food items like Nzu have no nutritional value and may expose you and your infant to toxins. So it is best to avoid it in pregnancy.