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Dangers of Alfalfa Sprouts

author image Kelli Cooper
Kelli Cooper has been a writer since 2009, specializing in health and fitness. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Rutgers University and is a certified personal trainer with the American Council on Exercise.
Dangers of Alfalfa Sprouts
A close-up of alfalfa sprouts. Photo Credit lynnebeclu/iStock/Getty Images

Its rich stores of proteins, vitamins and minerals, coupled with its ability to grow in varied climates, has made alfalfa sprouts a popular form of livestock feed all over the world. Humans have long used alfalfa in its various forms as both a food and medicine. Limited research suggests this plant might offer some medicinal benefits, such as lowering cholesterol and blood sugar, and reducing symptoms of menopause, but not enough evidence exists to make any firm conclusions about its medicinal effects. Several safety concerns surround the consumption of alfalfa sprouts, either as a food or supplement. Consult a doctor well-versed in natural medicine before using alfalfa to treat any condition.

Estrogenic Activity

The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center says alfalfa sprouts demonstrate ‘’potent’’ estrogenic activity in lab tests. The estrogenic effects of herbs can cut both ways. They might reduce symptoms of menopause, triggered by dropping estrogen levels. On the other hand, their ability to mimic the action of this hormone might lead to negative effects, such as increasing the risk of breast cancer and other diseases that result from excess estrogen. If you currently have any estrogen- or cancer-related conditions, suffered them in the past or have an increased risk of developing them, do not use alfalfa supplements or eat alfalfa sprouts in large amounts.

Dangers of L-Cavanine

Alfalfa sprouts contains a toxin called L-cavanine, which might trigger a flare-up of lupus in patients experiencing a remission of symptoms, lower blood cell counts and spleen enlargement, according to the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. It reports on animal research that found heating alfalfa to extreme temperatures might negate these effects, but this has not been conclusively established.

Bacterial Contamination

Alfalfa sprouts might contain several forms of deadly bacteria, including E. coli. The Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, recommends that children, the elderly and people with reduced immune function refrain from consuming alfalfa sprouts due to their increased susceptibility to infection. Sloan-Kettering notes case reports of people suffering infections with listeria and salmonella after consuming alfalfa in food and supplement form.

Medication Interactions

Its high vitamin K content suggests alfalfa could reduce the effectiveness of warfarin and other blood-thinning drugs. These drugs have highly individualized doses, and using supplements and foods that affect their actions even minimally could put your health at risk. Drugs.com reports that alfalfa might stimulate the immune system, which could affect the actions of drugs that suppress overactive immune system activity.

Alfalfa might lower blood sugar, which increases the risk of hypoglycemia if you combine it with insulin or other blood sugar-lowering drugs. Its estrogenic activity might decrease the effectiveness of hormonal therapies and hormonal contraceptives, while its ability to stimulate urination might increase the effectiveness of diuretic drugs.

Other Safety Concerns

Avoid alfalfa if you are pregnant or nursing.

It has a high purine content, which might aggravate gout.

Gastrointestinal side effects include increased stool frequency, diarrhea, gas and general stomach upset.

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