Posts share misleading claims about nutritional benefits of bananas

Multiple posts on Facebook make a series of claims about the benefits of consuming bananas, including that the fruit can “cure” constipation and migraines. This is misleading; health experts told AFP that the posts overstated the benefits of eating bananas.

The claims were shared in this Thai-language Facebook post on April 9, 2022.

It translates to English as: “Bananas have plenty of nutritional benefits. They cure constipation and migraines. They help reduce stress and help you sleep better. They improve your eyesight. They are also good for [your] diet.”

A screenshot of the misleading post, taken on April 22, 2022.

The post includes a photo of sundried bananas, a typical snack eaten in Thailand.

Thai-language posts about the health benefits of bananas have circulated on Facebook since at least 2017, including here, and were more recently shared in April 2022 here and here.

Similar claims have also been shared in English-language posts on Twitter here, here and here.

But health experts told AFP that many of the claims overstated the health benefits of bananas.

Claim: ‘Bananas cure constipation’

Kanitha Tananuwong, head of the Department of Food Technology at Chulalongkorn University, told AFP that whether bananas could ease constipation depended on the ripeness of the banana.

“This claim is misleading — although bananas can help ease constipation, it is not a magic fruit for [curing] that,” she said. “Bananas have fibre content which helps you to excrete, but it also depends on the ripeness of the banana.

“If you eat them when they are completely ripe, the flavour is sweet and there is low fibre content. If you eat them semi-ripe, the fibre content is higher which will help with constipation.”

Wareethip Phuengpan, a nutritionist at the Bureau of Nutrition in Thailand’s Department of Health, told AFP: “In order to help with constipation, you should eat the bananas when they are either not too ripe or too unripe.”

Claim: ‘Bananas cure migraines’

Wareethip said there was “no evidence to support the benefits of bananas in helping with migraines”.

The Thai Food and Drug Administration published this statement on Facebook on September 26, 2020, in which it said the claim was “untrue”.

The Thai-language statement translates to English as: “The claim — ‘banana helps with migraine’ — has been falsely shared. Bananas have no medical properties to treat migraines whatsoever.”

Kanitha said: “There is no evidence to support the [claim].”

Claim: ‘Bananas reduce stress and aid sleep’

Wareethip said there was no evidence that directly links consuming bananas with reducing stress levels.

“There is no scientific evidence to prove the effect of fruits in helping humans to relax,” said Wareethip.

According to Kanitha, “we can’t guarantee that bananas will make you sleep better or reduce one’s stress level.”

Claim: ‘Bananas improve your eyesight’

Vitamin A — which is available in meat, fruits and vegetables — has properties to improve eyesight, experts explained to AFP.

However, bananas do not have an outstanding amount of Vitamin A, in comparison to bright-coloured vegetables such as pumpkins and carrots, Wareethip said.

“Bananas do not have a high content of Vitamin A, it is better for you to eat other fruits with higher content for that,” Kanitha explained.

Claim: ‘Bananas are part of a healthy diet’

Wareethip said people should eat bananas in moderation, and avoid overconsuming them.

“Remember that bananas have a high level of sugar,” she said. “However, if you are hungry, it is of course better to eat one banana than one bar of chocolate”.

By Percy