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Can a banana help your eye health?

Sean Ho

eye health newcastle

We at Concept always keep a watchful eye on any news around eye health, technology or style. Over the last couple of weeks, we noticed something rather odd: quite a few articles linking bananas to eye health. The claim? That the humble banana could serve as a much needed source of vitamin A, which can improve eye health.

At first glance, this is a bit confusing. Bananas only contain 64 international units (IU) of the vitamin, just over half a percentage point of the 10,000IU our bodies need every day. Based on this alone, we would need to eat around 200 bananas a day in order to get the vitamin A we need. If that were true then, whilst the banana could technically improve your eye health, you would need to organise a fairly surreal feast every day. You’d be much better off having half a cup of carrots, which would equate to over 90% of your daily need. Thing is, it’s a little bit more complicated than that.

There are two different kinds of vitamin A available to the human diet. Preformed vitamin A, which is already present in foods, is the form represented by the banana’s lowly 64IU. The other kind of vitamin A is known as a provitamin. Rather than being ready to digest, this is transformed into a vitamin inside your body, in your liver. Carotenoids – which colour fruits red, yellow or orange hues – play the role of creating provitamin A in your body whenever you eat a banana. How this exactly works is quite complex.

Crucially, carotenoids vary depending on the life of a specific plant. The study which sparked a lot of the articles online, ‘The Quest for Golden Bananas: Investigating Carotenoid Regulation in a Fe’i Group Musa Cultivar’, looks at two different groups of bananas – the “Asupina” which has a high carotenoid count and the “Cavendish” which has a low carotenoid count – to establish the molecular basis for generating carotenoids. The purpose of this is to make bananas produce more carotenoids, increasing the amount of vitamin A within them, making them better for your eye health.

So, whilst the answer to our question of ‘can a banana help your eye health?’ is a simply ‘it could’, the research these articles are referring to is very important. Vitamin A deficiency is rampant in the continent of Africa, and across parts of South-East Asia, causing between 250,000 and 500,000 children to become permanently blind every year. Half of these children die less than a year later. The research that this paper has started could see these deaths prevented, producing vitamin rich food which is easy to come by.

Unfortunately, for now, the answer isn’t clear. The only real guarantee to good eye health is to see an optometrist once every two years and to follow their advice. Keeping a balanced diet is important, but it won’t solve everything.

 

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