New Poster Catches Attention: Pohnpei Bananas
by Dr. Lois Englberger
A colorful poster presenting photographs of 15 different Pohnpei banana varieties, all carotenoid-rich with high health benefits, has now arrived in Pohnpei, as developed by the Island Food Community of Pohnpei. The purpose of the poster is to increase awareness about these varieties, some which are now rare, and to increase interest in planting and consuming more of these varieties.
The information presented includes: the Pohnpei names, international classifications, content of beta-carotene (the most important of the provitamin A carotenoids), and flesh color. All analyses were for samples of ripe banana.
The arrangement of the photographs reflects the levels of beta-carotene, starting from the top left. These include Utin Iap and Utimwas, containing from 1250 to 8508 microgram beta-carotene per 100 gram of flesh (about ½ cup). Both of these bananas have deep orange-colored flesh. Karat, which has yellow/orange-colored flesh, follows these two with the highest beta-carotene levels. Karat has been analyzed at several laboratories now, the results ranging from 670 to 2230 micrograms/100 g.
The message of the poster is this:
Grow and eat orange- and yellow-fleshed varieties for your health to help protect against diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, vitamin A deficiency, and anemia (Padok oh sakan soangen uth kan me oangoahng pwehn sewese omwi roson: soumwahu en suke, soumwahu en mohngiong, cancers, seuitar en vitamin A, oh seuitar en nta.
The provitamin A carotenoids are precursors to vitamin A and protect against vitamin A deficiency and anemia. Studies have now shown that carotenoids (including beta- and alpha-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, and zeaxanthin) may help protect against diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.
The poster represents 7 years of work, collecting samples of the rare bananas, and arranging transport of these samples (frozen) to different laboratories, including the Institute of Applied Sciences/University of the South Pacific in Fiji; DSM Nutritional Products in Switzerland (formerly Roche); University of Adelaide, Australia; Cancer Research Center of Hawaii, USA; and Anresco Laboratory, USA.
For the purposes of simplicity, this poster only represents the comparison of the bananas for carotenoid content. All bananas are rich sources of vitamin C and potassium, so one should remember that even the white-fleshed bananas are healthy foods. Karat is also a very special banana, and has been found to contain high levels of riboflavin (vitamin B2) as well as niacin and alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E).
Thanks are extended to the many persons and agencies contributing to the poster development, including the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, United Nations Children's Fund, Australian Embassy, Sight and Life, Pacific German Regional Forestry Program, and the laboratories.