I wasn’t planning to talk about the crazy post on Jezebel last Friday about the Australian girl who says she eats 51 bananas a day and claims that her nearly entirely raw, banana-heavy diet has led to a 40-pound weight loss. But then no fewer than five different people sent me a link to that post, with questions ranging from “Whaaaaaa?” to “HOW CAN THIS BE POSSIBLE?!” so I thought I’d weigh in.
Actually, I did better than that. I talked to Main Line Health dietician Judy Matusky, who works at Bryn Mawr and Paoli hospitals, about what such a diet might do to a person’s body. Our conversation was pure conjecture, of course—Matusky didn’t personally examine the aforementioned Banana Girl—but the outcomes are based on fact, on what consuming that many bananas would most likely do to a person’s body.
Here, seven scary things I learned from our conversation.
1. Eating 51 bananas puts you at well over 5,000 calories in a day.
"Most women need 2,000 calories a day—the banana diet would give 3,000 more than you need," says Matusky. "It's just not believable that a person could lose weight on 51 bananas a day." For the record, the typical recommendation is three servings of fruit a day.
2. Eating 51 bananas—particularly, the ripe bananas in the Jezebel picture—is the equivalent of eating 250 teaspoons of sugar.
"Those are really ripe bananas, so they have a higher sugar content," Matusky says, adding that the equivalent is 250 teaspoons of the sweet stuff. Most women shouldn’t eating more than about five teaspoons of sugar per day, so this is pretty much off the charts.
Besides the calorie cost, Matusky says eating that much sugar has to take a toll on your blood sugar levels and energy. "I would think your insulin would be going crazy. You would not feel very good. You might feel an initial burst of energy, but it would result in significant mood changes."
3. Eating 51 bananas in a day raises concerns about getting too much potassium.
Too much potassium is not a good thing, advises Matusky: "If you’re eating all those bananas, you have to be a little concerned that you could absorb too much potassium." The medical concern is hyperkalemia, a condition caused by abnormally high levels of potassium in the blood, which can mess with your heart function. Yikes.
4. Eating 51 bananas in a day would probably cause your stomach to be distended.
"You would be so uncomfortable because with that much fruit comes a significantly high amount of fiber," says Matusky. "Once it gets to your lower GI tract, it would wreak havoc."
5. Eating 51 bananas in a day would probably cause raging diarrhea.
You know, in case you were wondering what the "havoc" above specifically refers to.
6. Eating 51 bananas in a day—and doing so day after day after day—might cause you to be deficient of other important nutrients.
"I spend all my time trying to get people to create a balanced diet with nutrients sourced from a variety of different foods. So when someone gets that extreme and they’re just eating one food, we know they’re missing so many nutrients," says Matusky. "It's scary because you're going to have imbalances with electrolytes in your blood, very dry and scaly skin—all kinds of issues." Matusky's chief nutritional concern is that bananas are devoid of protein and healthy fatty acids.
7. Eating 51 bananas a day—and condoning that diet publicly on the Internet—sets a horrible example.
"These viral YouTube videos are probably seen by young women and teens, who are looking for the next fad diet to lose weight," Matusky says. "I do a lot of outreach with the schools in the area. We have young girls who are already wrestling with body image issues and whether or not they have an eating disorder. These kinds of diets are the thing that worry me the most for young girls."
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