Bacterial infections causing severe, bloody diarrhea kill 2.2 million children, mostly from underdeveloped countries each year. New research suggests that bananas along with antibiotics, could help protect against such devastating illnesses.

A study published in the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Journal examined the effect of a dietary intervention among a group of 73 young children suffering from severe gastrointestinal distress resulting from bacterial infection. All children received antibiotics, but half were given two bananas/day to supplement their controlled rice diet. After five days, the banana-fed youngsters had 60% less evidence of infection such as diarrhea.

Why might bananas have made such a difference? As previously explored, bananas contain resistant starch which ferments in the large intestine, creating by-products (butyrates) which the researchers suggest can reduce inflammation, thus helping to alleviate symptoms of foodborne and other bacterial infections.

Bonus: Bananas may beat leukemia: Regular consumption of bananas in the first two years of life may protect your child from this debilitating cancer.

Published January 1, 2010