When it comes to making a healthy berry smoothie, many of us reach for that trusty banana to add some creaminess and sweetness. However, a recent study from the University of California Davis (UCD) has shed some light on a surprising fact – bananas may actually overpower the antioxidants in berries. This revelation has significant implications for those looking to maximize the benefits of plant-based foods rich in flavonols, such as berries, tea, cocoa, apples, pears, and peaches.

Flavonols, a type of antioxidant, have been linked to numerous health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health and cognitive function. Unfortunately, many people fall short in their consumption of flavonol-rich foods, making it even more vital to understand how to optimize the absorption of these beneficial compounds.

To investigate the effect of bananas on flavonol absorption, researchers at UCD conducted a controlled, blinded study with a small group of eight participants. The participants were given either a flavonol-rich berry smoothie or a simple flavonol capsule. Subsequent tests revealed a noticeable increase in the levels of flavonol metabolites in their blood.

However, when a banana was added to the berry smoothie, the results were startling. The metabolites in the participants’ blood were found to be 84 percent lower than after consuming a pure dose of flavonol. This unexpected finding prompted the researchers to delve deeper into the reasons behind this diminished absorption.

The likely culprit behind this phenomenon appears to be an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase (PPO). This enzyme is involved in the oxidation process that causes bananas to turn brown when exposed to air. Interestingly, PPO seems to interfere with the absorption of flavonols, preventing them from exerting their beneficial effects within our bodies.

When a banana-berry smoothie containing a high amount of PPO was left at room temperature during experiments, it was found to contain fewer flavonols than a pure berry smoothie after just one hour. However, when researchers inhibited the PPO in bananas, the flavonol levels remained stable. This indicates that PPO plays a significant role in limiting the availability of flavonols before they enter the human body.

To further evaluate the impact of bananas on flavonol absorption, the researchers had 11 participants consume two separate drinks simultaneously – a banana drink and a berry drink. This prevented PPO from interacting with the flavonols before ingestion. Surprisingly, the presence of the banana drink led to reduced levels of flavonol metabolites in the participants’ bloodstream, even when consumed alongside a berry drink. However, it is important to note that this study was conducted on a limited number of male participants and should be further investigated.

The results of this study emphasize the importance of considering not only the selection of fruits, vegetables, and plant-based products to increase flavonol intake, but also the way they are prepared, stored, and consumed as part of a regular meal. By understanding how to maximize the potential health benefits of flavonols, individuals can make more informed choices when it comes to crafting balanced and nutritious meals.

The unexpected findings of this study regarding the interaction between bananas and flavonols highlight the need for further scientific attention in this area. As research expands, it will be fascinating to see how we can optimize the absorption and benefits of antioxidants, paving the way for a healthier future.


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