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Can eating more than six bananas kill you?
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Can eating more than six bananas at once kill you?

Bananas are one of the world's most popular fruits, stuffed with vitamins and minerals. However, it's sometimes said that eating a lot of bananas at once could be dangerous - it has even been suggested that eating more than six in one sitting could kill you. Can this really be true?

Can eating more than six bananas in one go really kill you?

One well-known figure who has spread this idea around is British Karl Pilkington, a travel show presenter.  Pilkington once said on a TV programme,

“I had that fact, about if you eat more than six, it can kill you. Potassium levels are dangerously high if you have six bananas.”

Karl Pilkington, a travel show presenter

So how dangerous is potassium? Actually, it is crucial for survival. Said dietitian Catherine Collins,

“We use (potassium) to help generate an electrical charge which helps the cell function properly. It helps keep your heart rate steady, it helps trigger insulin release from the pancreas to help control blood sugars, and more importantly keeps blood pressure in check."

On the other hand, if the level of potassium in the body is too low or too high it can result in an irregular heartbeat, stomach pain, nausea and diarrhoea. Potassium chloride is even one of the chemicals used in lethal injections in the US, as extremely high doses can cause cardiac arrest.

A banana plantation

But for a healthy person, it would be impossible to overdose on bananas. Added Collins,

"You would probably need around 400 bananas a day to build up the kind of potassium levels that would cause your heart to stop beating... Bananas are not dangerous - and in fact they are, and always have been, very good for you."

Potatoes are also high in potassium

Adults should consume about 3,500mg of potassium per day, according to the UK's National Health Service. The average banana contains 450mg of potassium, meaning a healthy person can consume at least seven-and-half bananas before reaching the recommended level.

There are some people who should steer clear of foods that are high in potassium though, warns Collins - those with kidney disease.

Not a big fan of fruits and vegetables? Certain fish, like wild salmon and tuna, are relatively high in potassium

Patients with kidney disease have a very low kidney function which can potentially see a build-up of harmful potassium levels in their blood stream. So in theory it is possible for someone with kidney disease to die of a high blood potassium level if they decide to consume lots of different food types rich in the mineral.

Click here to read more about bananas!

(All images - credit: Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons licence)

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