Recently I see “banana detox” ads going around on Facebook and elsewhere! Before you believe this and go after doing something like this, you need to know the following important fact: Your body already has a detox machine. It is called: liver. If you want to detox, stop eating the things that are bad for your liver!
What is a Banana?
An average sized banana is 27 grams of carbs, from which 3 grams is fiber, so 24 grams of the remaining carbs turn into sugar in your body. 24 grams of sugar is 6 teaspoons of table sugar. A large part of this sugar in a banana (about 50%) is fructose. Fructose is not ever going to become glucose in the body for energy use. Rather fructose first turns into alcohol. It becomes ethanol. As you know, ethanol is the fuel additive we have in our fuel tanks mixed with gasoline to improve performance. Feeding your car engine with bananas may be better for you than to eat many yourself.
Alcohol is the worst possible thing you can give to your liver. Alcohol consumption in large amounts causes alcoholic fatty liver disease. Going on a banana detox can land your liver in a non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Not exactly detoxing, is it?
Potassium: The Good
Now there are good things about a banana too. It has around 420 mg of potassium and potassium is great. We need potassium for healthy life, for the voltage assist with salt in our brain, heart and muscles, and to reduce water from within cells (not edema that is water in between cells). Potassium is a diuretic so eating much of it will remove enough water from your cells to reduce your blood pressure because the volume of your blood will be less—not that your blood pressure improved in any way otherwise permanently.
Potassium: The Bad
Potassium, however, has a problem associated with it. In a Petri dish, potassium can ignite a seizure1. This makes sense for several reasons. Since potassium is a diuretic and thus it reduces water from your cells, if taken to the extreme, as in banana detox, it can literally collapse a cell. Where does it collapse cells? Everywhere in your body but obviously the ones that collapse first are those used most: brain and heart. A collapsed cell can do nothing. It is void of fluids and nutrients.
Potassium is also used for the inmates’ execution on death row. Not in the form of banana, of course, but I suppose you get my message: everything in large proportion outside of the range of normal is not good.
Detoxing: The Truth
Not only are there no health benefits but there are dangers associated with any detox, especially those advertised as juicing or the banana detox or any other kind.
Assume you have your own orchard full of fruit trees and you just picked the tastiest fruits you could find. Now you place them in the juicer or the blender to make a juice, a smoothie or a shake. Anything you do other than eat the fruits whole, separates the sugar from the insoluble fiber of the fruit and what you end up drinking is pure 100% sugar-water with a little fruit taste and color2. The same also goes for vegetable juices, shakes, and smoothies: all pure sugar-water.
There is also the problem of the liver and what it does or does not like. Sugar is one of the things your liver really does not like! It is a ton of work to convert the glucose of the sugar into fuel for the brain and body, for which insulin is spiked of course. Eating only banana and a lot of it means a lot of glucose will hit your brain. You will first end up in a euphoric high and then after in a very steep sugar crash.
A sugar crash that falls onto people who know nothing about it can end in fatality.
The second half of the sugar from such banana or juicing detox is fructose. As noted earlier, fructose does not add to our energy but converts to ethanol in the liver, making the liver sick. Plus after your liver finally managed to convert the alcohol with great trouble, it converts it to the type of fats that are responsible for clogging up your arteries and increasing triglycerides, the sticky cholesterol in your LDL—the worst of your bad cholesterol.
Sugar eaten without fiber is equivalent to sugar eaten by the spoon. Sugar is the guilty one in causing high blood pressure and not salt3-12. So at the end of your detoxing, be it banana detox or juicing detox, you may end up with sick liver, high levels of bad cholesterol, hypertension, and a very bad heart.
So is detoxing a scam? You bet! Are you gullible for such a scam? At least now I can say: I told you so! You can now make an educated decision!
So how do you detox your liver? Why would you? It does the detoxing for you! So keep your liver safe and healthy; it is one of the most important gems you have! Eat well: avoid sugar, avoid alcohol, and avoid a ton of protein all at once. If you treat your liver well, your body will be healthy and well. There is nothing to be detoxed!
1 Wei, Y., Ullah, G. & Schiff, S. J. Unification of Neuronal Spikes, Seizures, and Spreading Depression. The Journal of Neuroscience, 11733-11743 (2014).
2 Robert H. Lustig M.D., M. S. L. Fat Chance; Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease. (Penguin, 2012, 2013, 2014).
3 Nichols, H. (2015).
4 Rodrigues, S. L. et al. High potassium intake blunts the effect of elevated sodium intake on blood pressure levels. Journal of the American Society of Hypertension 8, 232-238, doi:10.1016/j.jash.2014.01.001.
5 DiNicolantonio, J. J. & Lucan, S. C. The wrong white crystals: not salt but sugar as aetiological in hypertension and cardiometabolic disease. Open Heart 1, e000167, doi:10.1136/openhrt-2014-000167 (2014).
6 Roysommuti, S., Suwanich, A., Jirakulsomchok, D. & Wyss, J. M. Perinatal taurine depletion increases susceptibility to adult sugar-induced hypertension in rats. Advances in experimental medicine and biology 643, 123-133, doi:10.1007/978-0-387-75681-3_13 (2009).
7 Badar, V. A., Hiware, S. K., Shrivastava, M. P., Thawani, V. R. & Hardas, M. M. Comparison of nebivolol and atenolol on blood pressure, blood sugar, and lipid profile in patients of essential hypertension. Indian Journal of Pharmacology 43, 437-440, doi:10.4103/0253-7613.83117 (2011).
8 Sharma, N. et al. High-sugar diets increase cardiac dysfunction and mortality in hypertension compared to low-carbohydrate or high-starch diets. Journal of hypertension 26, 1402-1410, doi:10.1097/HJH.0b013e3283007dda (2008).
9 Kim, Y. H., Abris, G. P., Sung, M.-K. & Lee, J. E. Consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Blood Pressure in the United States: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003-2006. Clinical Nutrition Research 1, 85-93, doi:10.7762/cnr.2012.1.1.85 (2012).
10 Cohen, L., Curhan, G. & Forman, J. Association of Sweetened Beverage Intake with Incident Hypertension. Journal of General Internal Medicine 27, 1127-1134, doi:10.1007/s11606-012-2069-6 (2012).
11 Mirmiran, P., Yuzbashian, E., Asghari, G., Hosseinpour-Niazi, S. & Azizi, F. Consumption of sugar sweetened beverage is associated with incidence of metabolic syndrome in Tehranian children and adolescents. Nutrition & Metabolism 12, 25, doi:10.1186/s12986-015-0021-6 (2015).
12 Soleimani, M. & Alborzi, P. The Role of Salt in the Pathogenesis of Fructose-Induced Hypertension. International Journal of Nephrology 2011, 392708, doi:10.4061/2011/392708 (2011).
Your comments are welcome as always!