Green Banana: Potential Treatment for Acute and Chronic Ulcers?

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Green Banana: Potential Treatment for Acute and Chronic Ulcers?

Reference: Dunjic BS et al: Green banana protection of gastric mucosa against experimentally induced injuries in rats. Scan J Gastroenterol 28: 894-898, 1993.

Summary: The protective capacity of fresh unripe green sweet bananas, phosphatidyl choline and/or pectin were evaluated against ethanol- or indomethacininduced gastric mucosal lesions in animals. One hundred and twenty Sprague-Dawley rats were given absolute ethanol followed 45 minutes later by one of the aforementioned agents either singly or in combination. In contrast to the control group, the banana suspension (banana pulp with saline) significantly reduced acute gastric ethanol-induced lesions (p<0.05). Pectin, phosphatidylcholine, and the combination of phosphatidylcholine and pectin in higher concentrations, not typically found in the fruit, also significantly (p< 0.001) reduced the incidence of acute ulcers in comparison to the placebo group. The banana suspension along with pectin also demonstrated similar individual protective effects against acute indomethacin-induced ulcers (p< 0.01). It is important to note that the banana suspension alone was therapeutically effective against chronic indomethacin-induced ulcers (p <0.05) after 6 hours, but not after 9 hours.

Comments/Opinions: Although many natural foods, including Glycyrrhiza glabra, promote mucous production, few individuals have recognized the value of banana as an antiulcerogenic agent. The most common form of banana used is the plantain or vegetable banana. Plantains have to be cooked to be edible whereas sweet bananas are eaten raw. However, in terms of both active phyto-chemicals and therapeutic efficacy, both varieties of bananas seem to be similarly effective. The Swedish researchers in this study argue that bananas are a potentially useful anti-ulcer agent as they "...strengthen mucosal resistance and promote healing of ulcers because of the presence of water soluble polysaccharides in unripe bananas and surface active phospholipids in ripe sweet bananas." Pectin is a major polysaccharide component of banana. Polysaccharides are also found in the prescription anti-ulcer agent called Sucralfate(R). Additionally, phospholipids exert a gastric protective effect by influencing surfactant values. Based on the conclusion of the current study, polysaccharides in the form of pectin and lipids such as phosphatidylcholine, are the major anti-ulcer components found in banana. However, why not just employ phosphatidylcholine and/or pectin since they have a higher statistical significance, and hence greater anti-ulcer effectiveness, than banana pulp alone ?

On analysis, banana pulp contains several phospholipid fractions including phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylinositoI and phosphatidylethanolamine. Since these scientists only employed phosphatidylcholine, could not some of these other lipids, in whole or in part, be responsible for banana's anti-ulcer action ? Although these specific questions remain to be answered, the researchers concluded that there may be some sort of synergistic action between the fruit's consitituents by noting "...that the protective capacity of the banana fruit is not only confined to one or two ingredients but may be an interaction of different active components." Bananas may in fact be another useful therapeutic addition to such well-established anti-ulcer foods as raw cabbage, green tea, garlic and legumes.

Natural Product Research Consultants, Inc.

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By R. Reichert

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