Every year we spent our Easter holidays with my in-laws as they will be in town from Vienna to spent more time with us during summer holidays. We usually return to our home in Aluva after the Easter family lunch. Last year my father-in-law asked me to stay back for dinner to meet the parish priest from a church nearby. "Father Thomas specifically wanted to meet you as he is interested to know more about your Jackfruit venture he read in the papers" exact words from my father in law.
Fr. Thomas arrived around 7pm. During dinner he explained to me he grew up as a farmer's son, still passionate about farming. He promotes small scale farming in every parish he has worked and wanted to know more about Jackfruit365. I explained the project and how we have been able to make it easier for Chefs and Housewives in cities to prepare jackfruit dishes. He then shared a shocking incident which got me worried.
He developed diabetes seven years ago while he was in charge of rebuilding a church and he feels the stress related to the project was the major cause for an otherwise healthy life style he had. For the past seven years he is on insulin and takes the injection every day after dinner. A month ago he had the traditional Kerala Jackfruit meal prepared with unripe raw jackfruit pods as dinner, as he had a guest very fond of jackfruits. After the meal they continued to chat for an hour and he took his insulin once the guest left. Within minutes he collapsed to the floor. He somehow crawled up to reach the sugar sachet from the bedside table and for the first time in six years he had to use the emergency response his doctor had advised in case if he feels hypoglycaemic. He lied down on the floor and got up after two hours when he regained some strength. When he checked his sugar level was 50 mg/dl. Two weeks later he had the jackfruit meal again; this time he ate 20 pods of ripe jackfruits to get some extra sugar and took half the dose of insulin. Around 2am in the night he became hypoglycaemic again. He wanted to know if I knew anything about what is causing this and should he stop taking his favourite meal
My first worry was can this happen to any of my customers as I sell the same jackfruit pods in freeze dried form. I always knew one of the 10 health benefits reported for Jackfruit is its ability to regulate blood sugar level but there was no credible data or case study I could find to back this up. Hence I never highlighted this aspect and kept my focus primarily on the bottle brush effect to cleanse intestines due to its high fibre. I thanked Fr. Thomas, promised to investigate further on this and revert back with my findings. I started asking around for more incidents of hypoglycaemic activity from the jackfruit meal. Found out a banker always carries a ripe banana with him every time he takes the jackfruit meal for breakfast followed by insulin. He will become hypoglycaemic by the time he reaches the bank and eats the banana to get a boost of sugar. But I also learned almost all doctors in Kerala advise their diabetic patients to avoid jackfruit completely, including the ayurvedic doctors.
A 10 month search for a silver bullet
I reached out to my contacts on Facebook and LinkedIn asking for references to anyone focused on diabetic research. First response came from my engineering college classmate, who is holding a senior position at Nestle. He connected me with Dr. Vivek Garg who is more close to diabetic research. Dr. Garg was only aware of reports on the benefits of extract from jackfruit leaves but nothing about the fruit. He agreed to conduct a first level research on published reports and revert. Meanwhile another contact on Facebook connected me with a well known diabetic research institute in Chennai.
First breakthrough: Published study on Ceylon Medical Journal
Two weeks later I got a call from Dr. Garg "James, I found out the root cause and it is real! Sending you a mail with details. "Mail arrived next day with an attached report published in Ceylon Medical Journal." The review of literature throws light on the anti-diabetic properties of raw Jack fruit and my observations are listed below.
Hypothesis for Hypoglycemic activity
Jackfruit meal has a low Glycemic Index (GI). The low GI could be due to the collective contributions from dietary fiber, slowly available glucose and un-gelatinised (intact) starch granules in the seeds. Since the study compared the Jack fruit meal with white bread as a standard, according to the current Glucose standards for glycemic index, the value would be 52.5 i.e. low GI." Dr. Vivek Garg, Nestle India
The attached report had a graph which corroborated with the incidents with Fr. Thomas. The sugar levels drops significantly within 50 minutes of jackfruit meal consumption.
Graph Image Source: Ceylon Medical Journal report by U P K Hettiaratchi, S Ekanayake, J Welihinda , copy of the original report can be downloaded from here
Second breakthrough: Unripe raw jackfruit has very low sugar level, only 20% sugar level Vs ripe pods.
I then approached Sterling Farms Lab in Kochi to test sugar level in freeze dried unripe raw jackfruits pods used to prepare the jackfruit meal to verify the low glycemic index claim. The result showed unripe raw jackfruit pods have 10.2 g Sugar vs 57.6g for ripe pods.
Third breakthrough: very high insoluble fiber in jackfruit
Further discussions with doctors in Kerala and Chennai led me to believe there is one more factor causing this hypoglycemic activity. Insignificantly low levels sugar gets absorbed to the body due to the high fiber in jackfruit. This means food passes through the body very fast and doesn't get enough time to transfer sugar. More online research on this led me further to the effect of insoluble fiber. I got back to Sterling Farms lab and found out 60% of dietary fiber in jackfruit is insoluble fiber. Which means a bulk of the jackfruit meal is just passing through the body without getting digested and considered very gut-healthy.
I got back to the doctors and found out this may address one of the biggest problems they face in treating patients. Patients feel very hungry after eating the low volume diabetic diet and ends up binging on unhealthy food.
Conclusion: Consumption of mature unripe jackfruit can reduce insulin dependency on patients due to:
1. Low glycemic index
2. High dietary fiber especially insoluble fiber
3. Possible to eat large quantity as a meal and satiate a hungry diabetic patient
In addition jackfruit is Gluten Free and can be a silver bullet for diabetic patients with Gluten allergy
Why this remained a hidden secret:
1. Only Sri Lanka and Kerala uses mature unripe jackfruit to prepare a whole meal as an alternate to Rice or Wheat which means higher quantity of consumption. Rest of the world uses tender jackfruit as a side dish in low quantity per meal.
2. Jackfruit has a very short season of 2-3 months hence never considered as a viable diet
3. Most nutritional values of jackfruits are for ripe jackfruit which is high in sugar hence many overlooked unripe jackfruit.
Expert feedback on Conclusion:
“The doctrines of Ayurveda can be as old as some 3000 years back. So by these centuries, a practical derivation in terms of daily diet happened in all societies of India. In Kerala, Chakka (raw jackfruit) was a basic carbohydrate source used along with or solely as tapioca is being used now. But overtime we overlooked the fact that all medicinal values mentioned in old pharmaceutical texts are of raw jackfruit not ripe jackfruit. In relevant texts mentioned in "Annaswaroopa vijnaneeyam" (data on public food stuff), panasam (raw jackfruit) is meant as nourishing, ideal like njavara ari, godhoomam (gothambu/ wheat). Panasam is not categorized as a fruit like grape or mango. The contra indications mentioned for raw jackfruit are gastritis and peptic ulcer and ONLY ripe jackfruit to be avoided in prameham (diabetes). I salute your research in bringing the benefits of this virgin food, may be the only non contaminated food and specially its benefits for diabetes”
"Low sugar and high insoluble fibre aspect of raw jackfruit is quite compelling. While the whole world is looking for nutraceuticals and/or functional foods, your ideas are worth pursuing. It is time to test the time-tested solutions for diabetics, more so applying the state-of-the art scientific methodologies in the context of evidence-based medicine”
“Heart disease is the number one killer of people worldwide. Diabetes has been integrally linked and shown to increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and hypertension and is on the order of an epidemic in India. It is in this same setting that the cure may lie in the humble jackfruit which grows abundantly. Recent evidence from the Ceylon Medical Journal demonstrates that unripened jackfruit has been shown to decrease insulin requirements in diabetics and improve their overall glucose management. This has been postulated to be due to the low glycemic index and high fiber components of the jackfruit. While the study has small numbers, its results are fairly provocative and should definitely stimulate added investigation in the use of unripened jackfruit as part of a diabetic diet.”
“Unripe raw jackfruit flesh has a low glycemic index owing to its high fibre content and the nature of starch, which is resistant. Being high in fibre, it aids in digestion. Its mucilagenous pulp has been found to be useful in boosting the immune system. Jackfruit is definitely the new food to have on your diet chart.”
Back to Fr. Thomas Brahmanavelil
Later I went back to Fr. Thomas with my findings and explained the cause for his hypoglycaemic activity from jackfruit meal and he gave me a new data point further validating our conclusion. Since December every time he eats jackfruit meal he skips his insulin and is absolutely fine. It started as a self defence against his worry of becoming hypoglycaemic and in the last two months he has skipped insulin at least 20 times. In addition his meal size has also gone up.
Regular dinner = 1 cup rice or (3 chapatti) + vegetable curry followed by insulin injection
Jackfruit dinner= 3 cups jackfruit meal + vegetable curry and no insulin.
Why going public with this discovery now?
1. We are about to start the new season of jackfruit and if we can create awareness around the positive effect of unripe jackfruit as a diabetic diet, more people will try to eat fresh jackfruit. Farmers and Self Help Groups will be able to provide ready to cook raw jackfruits in packs.
2. Diabetic research community in India will get a full season to conduct clinical trials to further refine this study and hopefully arrive at a recommendation on the amount of jackfruit one can consume to delay or reduce insulin intake.
3. Chefs across India will get a full season to come up with more varieties of diabetic (and gluten free) dishes in addition to the 50+ recipes I have helped to create.
P.S. Raw jackfruit is the meaty flesh around the seed before it turns sweet. Like raw mango this is not sweet nor has any aroma compared to the ripe fruit. After getting some of the best Chefs in India to prepare 50+ international recipes with jackfruit, a chance meeting with a local parish priest in our village brought me to the conclusion, a 3000 year old village recipe is still the best way to consume the humble jackfruit and you can keep diabetes away too!
JackFruit365™ packs are handier than all season jackfruit tree in your yard!"
With best culinary regards,
Founder and brand Ambassador
* Legal Disclaimer - There is a chance that Jackfruit365™ based meals, combined with the medication, can lower your blood sugar too much! Hence, it is imperative that you work with your doctor to ensure you are monitoring your blood sugar and adjusting the medication properly. By consuming Jackfruit365™ you may be able to reduce or eliminate your medications over a period of time. So, always keep your doctor informed.