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I saw a few hours ago a friend posted on his Facebook wall a claim that some research from the University of Sussex has shown that daily consumption of ripe papaya works as a contraceptive, and to reverse the effects all you have to do is stop eating it.

This sounds very suspicious to me. I searched in the University of Sussex website and couldn't find any reference to it. The best reference I could find Googling it was this website, which belongs to the US National Library of Medicine. But even in that link they present as their source a May 1994 Asiaweek article (a magazine closed about 10 years ago).

Does anybody have a more up-to-date source of evidence to the validity of this dubious claim?

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It is a common belief in India that eating unripe papaya leads to abortion. This article claims the latex found in unripe papaya causes uterine contractions. –  Dheeraj V.S. Feb 25 '13 at 9:02
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up vote 22 down vote accepted

I am unable to find a copy of the original study.

I am unable to find a reference to Tharmalingam Senthilomohan, the researcher quoted in the linked article, aside from copies of the linked article.

In the absence of such basic corroborating evidence such as the existence of the researcher, verification of his cited credentials or any scholarly reference to the study, it is difficult to take this claim seriously.

That said, further research has led to a handful of animal studies which tend to support the claim.

This study examined the effects of an extract from papaya seeds on the fertility of female rats, and found that for very high concentrations of the extract, effects could be seen on the fetus, including lower birth weight and "complete resorption of about 30% of the foetuses."

Another study looked at the effect of two compounds from a purified extract on male rats. Both were equally effective in producing, "a gradual and significant decline in cauda epididymal sperm density, percent viable spermatozoa and significant increase in sperm anomalies." The authors conclude that a "Fertility test revealed 100% efficacy."

So it seems there may be something to this after all. I wouldn't say it's been conclusively proven, as no trial or study I have found has been conducted on humans, but there is some potential here. Using the Mythbusters rating, I'd call it plausible.

A more complete list of references can be found at the bottom of this website.

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remember "The dose makes the poison" - specific compounds in purified form in unknown dosages != any effect in humans. Also, not being a papaya eater, I'm unsure, but don't humans throw out papaya seeds? Excellent research anyway, +1 –  DVK Mar 28 '11 at 18:55
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"Fertility test revealed 100% efficacy" - does this mean that papaya seeds was 100% effective as a contraceptive? or that the male rats remaining sperm was still 100% effective at getting female rats pregnant? –  Oddthinking May 16 '11 at 14:04
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Or does eating such a wussy breakfast lower sex drive? Replace my bacon with papaya, and I'm not feeling up to it any more. –  Chris Cudmore Apr 22 '13 at 19:03
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