Nutritionists reject Facebook warning on fruits to diabetics

Nutritionists advised diabetics to eat fruit as part of a balanced diet, contrary to Facebook posts that warned them against dried banana and durian because it contained more than 20 percent sugar. The posts, which racked up thousands of shares, also contained inaccurate figures on the sugar content of various fruits.

"Diabetics should avoid fruits and vegetables with more than 20 percent sugar content," read a Thai-language Facebook post from April 26 with more than 14,000 shares.

The post shared a list of fruits alongside their purported sugar content. Dried banana topped the list with 64.1 percent sugar, followed by durian at 34.7 percent. Watermelon ranked bottom place with 4.9 percent sugar.

"Can't believe dried banana contains almost twice as much sugar as durian," the post said.

<span>Screenshot of the false post taken on April 29, 2024</span>
Screenshot of the false post taken on April 29, 2024

The list has circulated on Facebook for years and resurfaced in April 2024 here, here, and here.

'Moderation is key'

Phattraporn Thewa-Aksorn, a senior nutritionist from Thailand's health department said there was no basis to the claim that diabetics should avoid fruits and vegetables with over 20 percent sugar.

"Diabetics should maintain a diet that is not too sweet, but they should also consider other factors, such as the amount and type of carbohydrates, fat and fibre," she told AFP.

Assistant Professor Dr. Suwimol Sapwarobol, deputy dean of the nutrition and dietetics department at Thailand's Chulalongkorn University, said there was no such cut-off number as 20 percent.

"The basic principle for diabetics is not too sweet and not too much," she told AFP.

She stressed that fruits were rich in fibre and vitamins which were important for a healthy diet.

Wrong numbers

According to Phattraporn, dried banana contains 23.7 percent sugar per 100 grams -- far less than 64.1 percent, as the Facebook posts claimed.

Durian and watermelon have 21.3 percent and six to eight percent sugar respectively, not 34.7 percent and 4.9 percent, she added.

Similar figures are given by the Thai health department's 2014 report "Sugar content in Thai fruits" (archived link).

The report gives sugar levels for the specific varieties of each fruit, while Phattraporn gave the average for each fruit.

Sure and Share, the fact-checking arm of a Thai state-owned broadcaster, had previously published a video debunking the same claim in 2018 (archived link).