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False tweet claims eating plantain causes erectile dysfunction in men

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Claim: An X user posted that eating plantain causes erectile dysfunction in men if consumed frequently.  

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Plantains (Musa x paradisiaca) are a member of the banana family. Sometimes called cooking bananas, Plantains are closely related to bananas, but unlike their sweeter cousin, plantains are starchy and not typically eaten raw. They’re usually cooked before eating and remain a staple in many tropical regions worldwide. 

Relative to bananas, they are a good source of fibre, vitamins A, C, and B6, and potassium and magnesium minerals. They can be cooked in many ways– fried, baked, boiled– depending on the desired taste and texture. Green plantains are starchy and can be savoury, while ripe plantains are sweeter and can be used in desserts. 

Meanwhile, erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to get or maintain an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse. It is a common sexual problem that affects many men of all ages. Causes of ED include both physical and psychological factors. While physical causes can include heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and neurological disorders, lifestyle factors such as smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, and excessive alcohol consumption can also increase the risk of ED. Psychological issues like stress, anxiety, depression, and relationship problems can all affect a man’s ability to get or keep an erection.

Over the years, there have been conversations about how a person’s diet can cause erectile dysfunction (ED). 

On May 8, 2024, an X user, @Nig_Farmer, claimed in a post that eating plantain frequently causes serious erectile dysfunction in men within the active age bracket. The post, which had attached to it a picture of fried ripe plantains, was captioned: 

“If you are a man in your active sexual age bracket, please do not eat plantain. You’ll be doing yourself a big disfavour. It causes serious Erectile Dysfunction if you consume it frequently. Please desist from it as much as you can. ” 

As of May 13, 2024, the post had been viewed over 367,000 times, generating over 2,200 likes, over 1,000 retweets, and over 700 comments on the social media X.

It has also received reactions from users, who expressed fear, disbelief, and scepticism at the post.

An X user  @MrsZanga commented “We eat ripe plantain a lot in my house o. I hope nothing will happen to my sweet husband?”

Another user, @MisterManpower1, wrote: “Plantains DO NOT cause erectile dysfunction. I repeat, plantains DO NOT cause erectile dysfunction.” 

@youngonyisi, expressing scepticism, posted, “Ripe plantain or both ripe and unripe?”

Having observed the various reactions and engagement generated by the post, DUBAWA decided to fact-check it. 

Verification

No research corroborates the claim that plantain can cause ED. On the contrary, Pharmaceutical Biology opines that traditionally, plantain fruit pulp has been used as a natural remedy to manage erectile dysfunction in traditional medicine. According to this research, while recent studies on plantains and ED show promise, more research is needed, as studies on rats suggest that unripe plantains may contain compounds that could help ED by improving blood flow and nitric oxide production, both crucial for erections.

Some research has also found that plantains, particularly the unripe peels, may contain compounds that could help cure ED. A 2022 study by the National Library of Science discusses the benefits of plantain peels and explains that they restore sexual performance and hormonal imbalance. It also modulates nitric oxide production and key enzymes of penile function in paroxetine-sexually impaired male rats (approximately one-fourth of the human genome is shared with both rats and mice). 

Corroborating this, another research published in the Journal of Food Biochemistry also emphasises that plantain peels restore sexual performance and hormonal imbalance and modulate nitric oxide production and key enzymes of penile function in paroxetine‐sexually impaired male rats. 

Experts Opinions

According to Louisa Richards, a Registered Nutritionist and Nutritional Therapist, Plantains are a low-fat source of starchy carbohydrates and fibre. They also contain good amounts of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C and potassium. However, Dr Rotimi Suleiman, the Chief Medical Director of the Kwara State Specialist Hospital, Sobi, Ilorin, Nigeria, states that the processing of fried foods could cause nutrient imbalance as some vitamins and minerals could be lost. Generally, he advised moderation on foods, whether fried foods or not and that food should be consumed moderately, alongside habits such as regular exercise and avoiding a sedentary lifestyle.

Corroborating research works, Dr Olamilekan Quassem, a medical doctor at Get Well Hospital, Ibadan, Oyo state, said:

“Conclusively, there is no evidence to support the claim that overeating plantain or ripe plantain can cause erectile Dysfunction in men. The claim is absolutely unfounded.” He added, “In some cultures, in the use of their traditional medicine, ripe plantain pulp has even been used to treat erectile dysfunction. This evidence still remains inconclusive. Plantain has other benefits, including increasing the body’s potassium, which is used in the production of so many things in the body, and also in regulating the heart rate, for increased muscle strength.”

Dr Adeolu Olusodo, President of the Atayese Health Network, said:

“The talk that plantain causes erectile dysfunction in men is not true because research has shown that ripe and unripe plantain peels are very effective in boosting the erection in men and increasing libido in men. These are known facts that many people use to produce herbal mixtures that enhance men’s performance. That is a fact.”

He further stated that in communities where plantain is a staple food, it has been found that the prevalence of hypertension is lower in such communities than in others. 

Similarly, Dr Rotimi Suleiman, the Chief Medical Director of the Kwara State Specialist Hospital, Sobi, Ilorin, Nigeria, reacting to the claim made in the tweet, said that the claim is quite misleading, as fried plantain directly cannot cause erectile dysfunction, just as fried foods directly cannot cause erectile dysfunction. Sharing his thoughts on this, he said:

“Of course, too much intake of fried foods can be a risk factor for some diseases, and the reasons for this include that fried foods generally have a high sodium content. High sodium can be a risk factor for hypertension. Fried foods also contain huge amounts of calories, and we know that high-calorie intake or consumption can result in obesity, which is also a risk factor for type 2 diabetics. So, fried plantain directly cannot result in ED.”

He further emphasised that there have to be some factors or diseases before ED can occur. 

Conclusion 

There is no evidence eating plantains causes erectile dysfunction. Early research suggests plantains might even have some benefit. If there are concerns about ED, it’s always best to consult a doctor, as they can help diagnose the underlying cause and recommend the most appropriate treatment options.

The researcher produced this fact-check per the DUBAWA 2024 Kwame KariKari Fellowship, in partnership with Diamond 88.5 FM Nigeria, to enrich the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country. 

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