The Feared Mineral:
It’s sometimes said that eating a lot of bananas at once could be dangerous – it has even been suggested that eating more than six in one sitting could kill you. Can this really be true?
Bananas are one of the world’s most popular fruits, stuffed with vitamins and minerals. On the face of it they are good for you, so why do some people think they could be fatal?
So how dangerous is potassium? Actually, it is crucial for survival and can be found “within every single cell of the body,” says Catherine Collins, a dietitian at St George’s Hospital in London.
“We use it to help generate an electrical charge which helps the cell function properly. It helps keep your heart rate steady, it helps trigger insulin release from the pancreas to help control blood sugars, and more importantly, keeps blood pressure in check.”
On the other hand, if the level of potassium in the body is too low or too high it can result in an irregular heartbeat, stomach pain, nausea and diarrhoea. Potassium chloride is even one of the chemicals used in lethal injections in the US, as extremely high doses can cause cardiac arrest.
But for a healthy person, “it would be impossible to overdose on bananas,” says Collins. “You would probably need around 400 bananas a day to build up the kind of potassium levels that would cause your heart to stop beating… Bananas are not dangerous – and in fact, they are, and always have been, very good for you.”
It’s suggested that adults should consume about 3,500mg of potassium per day, according to the UK’s National Health Service. The average banana, weighing 125g, contains 450mg of potassium, meaning a healthy person can consume at least seven-and-half bananas before reaching the recommended level.
There are some people who should steer clear of foods that are high in potassium though, warns Collins – those with kidney disease.
“These patients have a very low kidney function which can potentially see a build-up of harmful potassium levels in their blood stream because they can’t get rid of the mineral when they pass urine,” she says. “So, in theory, it is possible for someone with kidney disease to die of a high blood potassium level if they decided to consume lots of different food types rich in the mineral.”
All I really know presently, I have been eating far more than 6 bananas a day, sometimes 6 or more in one sitting. I feel like I am thriving, energy levels are great, digestion is better than it has ever been. So my conclusion to date: I will keep peeling and eating, enjoying this delicious fruit that nature offers us.