Background: The problems of vitamin A deficiency and chronic diseases have emerged in recent years in some countries in the Micronesian region. These problems are associated with the dietary shift towards imported processed foods and lifestyle changes. Research in the Federated States of Micronesia indicates that yellow- and orange-fleshed banana cultivars contain significant levels of provitamin A carotenoids.
Objective: To identify further banana cultivars that may be promoted to alleviate vitamin A deficiency among children and women and chronic disease problems among adults.
Methods: Ripe fruit of banana cultivars growing in Australia (sourced mostly from a field research collection) were assessed for carotenoid content and flesh color. Ten cultivars with yellow or yellow/orange flesh color (including common cultivars of Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands) were selected and compared with two cream-fleshed cultivars, including Williams, of the Cavendish group, the most commonly marketed banana worldwide. Carotenoid content was analyzed by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Flesh color was analyzed by HunterLab colorimetry.
Results: The yellow/orange-fleshed Asupina (a Fe'i banana) contained the highest level (1,412 microg/100 g) of trans beta-carotene, the most important provitamin A carotenoid, a level more than 20 times higher than that of Williams. All 10 yellow or yellow/orange-fleshed cultivars (Asupina, Kirkirnan, Pisang Raja, Horn Plantain, Pacific Plantain, Kluai Khai Bonng, Wain, Red Dacca, Lakatan, and Sucrier) had significant carotenoid levels, potentially meeting half or all of the estimated vitamin A requirements for a nonpregnant, nonlactating adult woman within normal consumption patterns. All were acceptable for taste and other attributes. The cream-fleshed cultivars had minimal carotenoid levels. There was a positive significant correlation between carotenoid content and deeper yellow/orange coloration indicators.
Conclusions: These yellow- or yellow/orange-fleshed carotenoid-rich banana cultivars should be considered for promotion in order to alleviate vitamin A deficiency and chronic disease in susceptible target communities and to provide variety and enjoyment as exotic fruits in both developing and industrialized countries.