Bananas Blunt Blueberry Benefits


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In 2023, a fascinating controlled trial explored how the addition of bananas to blueberry smoothies affects polyphenol absorption in humans. This study, conducted by researchers at the University of California, Davis, suggests that aiming to understand food interactions at a biochemical level, revealed that bananas significantly alter the bioavailability of polyphenols from blueberries.

The Study Design

The trial involved a diverse group of participants who were divided into two groups. Both groups were given a blueberry smoothie, but with a key difference: one group received a smoothie containing only blueberries, while the other group’s smoothie also included a banana. The primary focus was to measure the levels of polyphenols—a class of antioxidants known for their numerous health benefits—in the participants’ blood after consumption.

Polyphenols and Their Importance

Polyphenols are micronutrients found in plant-based foods, renowned for their antioxidant properties. They play a crucial role in preventing various chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and neurodegenerative disorders. Blueberries are particularly high in polyphenols, making them a popular choice for health-conscious individuals.

Findings: The Banana Effect

The results of the study were striking. Participants who consumed the blueberry smoothie with the banana showed a significant decrease in the polyphenol levels in their blood compared to those who consumed the smoothie without the banana. Specifically, the absorption of key polyphenols such as anthocyanins, flavonols, and other phenolic acids was markedly reduced.

Mechanisms Behind the Interaction

The exact mechanism by which bananas reduce polyphenol absorption is not fully understood, but several hypotheses have been proposed:

1. Enzymatic Activity: Bananas contain high levels of polyphenol oxidase, an enzyme that can oxidize polyphenols, potentially rendering them less absorbable.

2. Fiber Content: The fiber in bananas may bind to polyphenols, making them less available for absorption in the gut.

3. pH Levels: Bananas can alter the pH of the digestive system, possibly affecting the stability and absorption of polyphenols.

Implications for Dietary Choices

This study has significant implications for individuals who consume smoothies for their health benefits. It suggests that while combining different fruits can enhance flavor and nutritional diversity, certain combinations may inadvertently reduce the absorption of beneficial compounds. For those aiming to maximize their polyphenol intake from blueberries, it may be advisable to avoid mixing them with bananas.

Future Research Directions

The study opens the door for further research into how different food combinations affect nutrient absorption. Understanding these interactions can help in designing optimal diets and functional foods that maximize health benefits. Future studies could also explore the impact of other common smoothie ingredients on polyphenol bioavailability.


The 2023 controlled trial sheds light on the complex interactions between food components, highlighting that the addition of bananas to blueberry smoothies can significantly decrease the absorption of polyphenols. As dietary habits evolve and the popularity of smoothies continues to grow, these findings underscore the importance of considering food combinations to fully harness the health benefits of fruits and other nutrient-rich foods.

Reference: “Impact of polyphenol oxidase on the bioavailability of flavan-3-ols in fruit smoothies: a controlled, single blinded, cross-over study” by Javier I. Ottaviani, Jodi L. Ensunsa, Reedmond Y. Fong, Jennifer Kimball, Valentina Medici, Gunter G. C. Kuhnle, Alan Crozier, Hagen Schroetera and Catherine Kwik-Uribe, 24 August 2023, Food & Function.
DOI: 10.1039/D3FO01599H
Robert Ferguson is a California- and Florida-based single father of two daughters, nutritionist, researcher, best-selling author, speaker, podcast and television host, health advisor, NAACP Image Award Nominee, creator of the Diet Free Life methodology, Chief Nutrition Officer for iCoura Health, and he serves on the Presidential Task Force on Obesity for the National Medical Association. You can e-mail Robert at


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