‘A banana a day keeps cancer away’? Well…not quite

It only takes a quick scroll of Facebook and Twitter to see the myriad of memes and other posts that hope to teach us things we never knew about ourselves.

In recent years, one post in particular has taken the internet by storm. The post, which was published briefly referencing scientific research, claimed that eating a banana a day would keep cancer and infections at bay.

Articles advocating the ‘miraculous power’ of ripe bananas claimed that a banana with more brown spots contained a substance called Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF).

According to the referenced sources, the research found that TNF found in ripe bananas can interfere with tumour cells and growth and inhibit them from spreading by causing cell death, or apoptosis.

The internet also made claims that eating bananas could help with heartburn, blood pressure, energy levels, anaemia, ulcers, depressions, constipation, PMS and temperature control.

However, it has recently been questioned whether or not bananas actually contain the TNF substance. Other issues arising from the analysis of research claim that the experiments don’t transfer to human clinical research, as the research primarily conducted was undertaken on mice.

Validity of the research has also been questioned due to the source in which it was published. The journal on to which the experiments were showcased, PubMed, is low in value and credibility.

Additionally, during the trials bananas were injected into the animals rather than ingested. Since the body would react to any foreign substance (an apple, viruses, bacteria, anything) injected into the peritoneum, production of TNF might be likely. It was thus suggested that the TNF does not flow out of the banana; it is just the immune system’s reaction to a banana injected into the body.

Despite Facebook memes and Twitter photos alike injecting a ray of hope into our lives by suggesting seemingly simple methods to improve our health – we may have to take what we read online with a pinch of salt.

TNT Health

Photo Credit: Robert Chlopas

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