|MadSci Network: Biochemistry|
This type of bird takes its name from the nests used in a soup, called bird's nest soup. It's very expensive, up to $10,000 per kg! One kilogram, however, means the loss of about 105 nests, each nest containing 1 or 2 eggs. Obviously this can have a negative impact on these swiftlets.
Chemical analyses by Massimo Marcone of the University of Guelph found that this bird's nest soup contains a protein similar to one found in eggs. He has found that this can lead to allergies. In fact, in Singapore, birds's nest soup is the leading cause of food allergies!
What you must realize is that this soup is simply hardened bird spit. Saliva is not nutritious, and bird's nest soup is no exception. It does contain some enzymes, salts, and mostly water. The saliva also contains some natural type of antibiotic. There is some research to see if the saliva can be used to control cell division. However, there really is no scientific evidence to justify any nutritional or health claims made for it.
In fact, it can be downright dangerous, as environmental contamination has turned up in bird's nest soup in Vietnam from arsenic. A Vietnamese man was poisoned from arsenic intoxication after consuming bird's nest soup! This was written up in the American Journal of Medical Sciences in April, 1999. (Luong KV, Nguyen LT. Organic arsenic intoxication from bird's nest soup. Am J Med Sci. 1999 Apr;317(4):269-71.)
You can find out more on the following web sites:
I realize that there is much good that comes out of Asian medicine. But we must be able to prove our claims, and in the case of bird's nest soup, I'm afraid there is precious little evidence to justify the intrusion on their population or the justification for such exorbitant prices.
Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Biochemistry.