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Study: Benefits of Bananas

Study: Benefits of Bananas
Nutritionists have been touting the health benefits of bananas for generations. One of nature's "superfoods," bananas are a rich source of important vitamins and minerals and with four times the protein and twice as many healthy carbohydrates as apples, they are an ideal snack for athletes. A recent study both confirms bananas' status as a superfood and suggests that cyclists and other endurance athletes would probably be better off finding stamina in bananas than in sports drinks.

Sports Drinks versus Bananas

Dr. David C. Nieman and his research team at Appalachian State University’s Human Performance Lab in North Carolina were given funding by Dole Foods to study the health benefits of bananas for athletic performance. 14 trained cyclists were divided into 2 groups. One group was instructed to drink a cup of a commercial carbohydrate (sports) drink every quarter of an hour throughout a 75 kilometre, 2.5 to 3 hour simulated road race. The other group was told to consume half a banana at the same intervals. The goal, according to Dr. Nieman, was to "see which was more beneficial when consumed during intense cycling."

While performance levels were equal in the two groups of athletes, blood tests before and after the race indicated that bananas provided evidence that there were significant advantages to bananas versus sports drinks:
  • Bananas contained a "healthier blend of sugars" than the sweetened sports drinks.
  • Bananas had greater nutritional benefits than sports drinks, which were, according to Dr. Nieman, "essentially flavored sugar water." Important nutrients found in bananas include fibre, potassium and vitamin B-6.
  • Bananas are a rich source of anti-oxidants.
While this study focused on cyclists, Dr. Nieman pointed out that the "mode of exercise is not the issue" and that the research indicated that bananas were a healthier alternative to sports drinks for all athletes.

While the study was funded by Dole, a large U.S. based banana growing corporation, it was peer reviewed before publication in the PLoS One (Public Library of Science) journal (Bananas as an Energy Source during Exercise: A Metabolomics Approach), which noted that the "funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript."

Topic: Nutrition

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