Not iron pills, eat plantain to boost your blood level

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By Sade Oguntola

Several studies carried out on Telfairia Occidentalis, which is commonly known as fluted pumpkin or ‘ugwu’, have proven that a diet containing ‘ugwu’ extract can significantly improve blood levels by boosting the packed cell volume (PCV).

Now, experts say that an alternative to Ugwu in stimulating the production of haemoglobin in the red blood cells is fruit and peel of plantain. Eating plantain is not the only way the fruit can help to keep individuals healthy, it can also help boost the red cell count in the body, and so help in cases of anaemia. 

Anaemia is a condition where there is a decrease in the number of red blood cells or haemoglobin in the blood, leading to fatigue, paleness and shortness of breath. Haematocrit or packed cell volume is a measurement for assessing anaemia.

In the new study, researchers said that following the administration of the extracts of unripe plantain flour and pulp, there was an increase in red cells count and haematocrit level, which was significant at a higher dose of 400 mg/kg as compared to the control group. The unripe plantain pulp had a better increase in red cell count when compared with the plantain peel, whereas the plantain peel showed much effect in increasing the haematocrit level when compared with its pulp.

According to the research findings, unripe plantain pulp and peel contain chemical substances that stimulate the production of red blood cells possibly by stimulating erythropoietin formation and secretion. Erythropoietin is a glycoprotein hormone that stimulates stem cells in the bone marrow to produce red blood cells. The researchers had evaluated the effect of extracts of unripe plantain pulp and peel on the blood and liver of 30 Wistar rats that were grouped into five groups of six animals each. They were given 200 mg/kg and 400 mg/kg of plantain fruit pulp extract or peel extract. The blood and liver were checked at the end of 14 days. Peel at a dose of 200 mg/kg had a non-significant increase in red blood cell count when compared to the control, however, at 400 mg/kg, there was a significant increase in red cell count. A high dose (400 mg/kg) of both fruit extracts significantly increased the haematocrit level when compared with the control.  There was a non-significant increase in haemoglobin concentration in the treated rats when compared with the control.

The 2021 study in the journal, “Biology, Medicine, & Natural Product Chemistry”, said both the extracts of plantain pulp and peel at 400 mg/kg showed a significant increase in red cell count and haematocrit level when compared with the control.  But they may not be associated with liver toxicity.

Previously, research has proved that bananas can also help to boost blood levels. They found significant differences in haemoglobin levels of students in the first and second grades in Prodi Kebidanan Metro who lived in the dormitory before and after consuming Ambon banana. The results showed an average haemoglobin level before consuming bananas at 12.51 g/dl and the average haemoglobin level after consuming bananas was 12.89 g/dl, so the average increase in haemoglobin levels was about 0.39 g/dl. The study was featured in a recent edition of ‘Enfermería Clínica’.

Previously, experts had linked its blood stimulating capacity to banana’s high iron content. Along with iron, it also makes for a good source of folic acid which is a B-complex vitamin that is required to make red blood cells. They also indicated that bananas can boost brain power, are beneficial for depressive symptoms and in lowering blood pressure. In a cross-sectional study of 24,673 adults in the Chinese population, researchers had explored the association between banana consumption and depressive symptoms and given evidence that banana consumption might have effects on depressive symptoms.

The data of this cross-sectional study were collected from the Tianjin Chronic Low-grade System Inflammation and Health (TCLSIH) Cohort Study that was initiated in 2007. Moreover, bananas contain lots of potassium, good content of potassium for people with high blood pressure. The combination of high potassium and very low salt makes fruit bananas useful for people with high blood pressure. Potassium content in Ambon banana works similar to antihypertensive drugs in the human body.

In a related development, President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the setting up of a Health Sector Reform Committee to commence the development and implementation of a Health Sector Reform programme for Nigeria in collaboration with the state governments and the FCT administration. This is sequel to a Health Sector Diagnostic Review Report developed by a consultant, Vesta Healthcare Partners and the Federal Ministry of Health.

The committee will undertake a review of all healthcare reforms adopted in the past two decades and lessons learnt and factor them into the development of the new Health Sector Reform Programme.

Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo
Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo


The committee which is set up for a period of six months under the Chairmanship of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has members drawn from private and public sector health care management professionals, development partners, representatives from the National Assembly as well as the Nigeria Governors Forum among others.

Other members are: His Excellency Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, Governor of Delta State ; Dr. Osagie Ehanire, Honourable Minister of Health; Mr. Alex Okoh Director General BPE; Prof Ibrahim Abubakar, a Professor in Infectious Disease Epidemiology at University College London and Director of the UCL Institute for Global Health; Mr Babatunde Irukera, Director General, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Council; Senator( Dr) Ibrahim Yahaya Oloriegbe; Dr. Adedamola Dada; Dr. Sani Aliyu; Dr. Mairo Mandara; Dr. Haliru Yahaya, Emir of Shonga; Professor Uche Amazigbo ; Director Hospital Services, Federal Ministry of Health; Dr Faisal Shuaib; Prof Nasiru Sambo; Dr Ifedayo Morayo Adetifa; Dr Gambo Aliyu;

Others in the committee are: Dr Betta Edu ( Chairman Nigeria Health Commissioners Forum representing National Council on Health); President Nigeria Medial Association; President Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria; President National Association of Nigeria Nurses & Midwives; President Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria ; Mrs Temi Marcella Awogboro ; Dr. Muhammad Sadiq; Dr. Azubike Tagbo and World Health Organization, Nigeria. Vesta Healthcare Partners and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are to serve as resources persons and have observer roles in the committee. Meanwhile, President Buhari has also approved the appointment of Dr Ifedayo Morayo Adetifa as the new Director General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). The President has named him as a member of this important committee.

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