A study of the toxic hazard that might be associated with the consumption of green potato tops

Food Chem Toxicol. 1996 May;34(5):439-48. doi: 10.1016/0278-6915(96)87354-6.


Eating green potatoes has reportedly led to poisoning attributed to potato glycoalkaloids (PGA), primarily alpha-solanine and alpha-chaconine. Concentrations of PGA increase during the greening of potatoes but are reportedly much higher in potato tops (leaves). As it is known that members of the UK Bangladeshi community consume potato tops, a study of the toxic hazard that may be associated with the consumption of green potato tops has been carried out. PGA in seven potato varieties were determined by HPLC. Tubers protected from light contained 0.05-0.65 mg/100 g alpha-solanine and 0.3-0.63 mg/100 g alpha-chaconine. Concentrations in leaf samples ranged from 0.64 to 22.6 mg alpha-solanine/100 g and 0.06 to 55.7 mg alpha-chaconine/100 g. Aqueous leaf extracts were cytotoxic to Chinese hamster ovary cells and lysed human, rat and hamster blood cells with no difference in sensitivity among species. Oral administration of potato tops to rats, mice and Syrian hamsters had no adverse effects at the highest practicable dose. A mixture of alpha-solanine and alpha-chaconine (1:1, w/w) given orally at doses of up to 50 mg/kg body weight to hamsters had no effect, but a single ip injection of 25 mg/kg body weight or greater was lethal, with bleeding in the gut. High concentrations of cytotoxic PGA were found in some potato tops, but their effect in laboratory animals was minimal. It is concluded that the consumption of moderate quantities of potato tops (2-5 g/kg body weight/day) is unlikely to represent an acute health hazard to humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Cells / drug effects
  • CHO Cells / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Cricetinae
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Plant Leaves / chemistry
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Solanine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Solanine / toxicity*
  • Solanum tuberosum / chemistry
  • Solanum tuberosum / toxicity*


  • Solanine
  • alpha-chaconine