- Jackfruit is a tropical fruit that has been gaining popularity as a dietary supplement in recent months.
- While there is preliminary evidence it may boost immunity and help control blood sugar, these claims are unproven.
- There is no strong scientific evidence that jackfruit has any benefits in humans.
I always find it a great thing when a dietary supplement can be consumed via the diet.
Broccoli, garlic, and various other supplements that can be found in grocery stores fit this criteria. Why buy pills when you can just get the food product itself and enjoy it?
However, when it comes to tropical fruits such as today’s topic, jackfruit, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Turns out that a fancy sounding cosmopolitan fruit is a big cash cow product.
It’s similar to acai—the fruit that earned millions before people realized that it was nothing but a marketing buzzword, this trend has also appeared with things such as moringa oleifera and camu camu—if it sounds foreign it should sell.
However, moringa oleifera was different from the other two as it has a wee bit of promise and has interesting components—acai and camu camu had nothing going for them except marketing.
So where does jackfruit fit in? Is it a useless fruit that’s nothing more than a cash cow product or could it be a deceptively healthful thing to consume?
Jackfruit is the common name for the fruit artocarpus heterophyllus.
It’s a quite large fruit, the biggest that can be grown in a tree and individual fruits have reached weights above 100 pounds. Not all of this is consumed, however, as the insides of a jackfruit consist of both fibrous pulp and fleshy fruit pods which are consumed.
It has a very strong aroma, which has caused people to make comparisons to durian fruit, but jackfruit’s aroma is seen as more pleasant and reminiscent of pineapple with banana.
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This is the question I asked myself for quite a bit before writing this article. This is a supplement website, not a culinary one, so why does a simple fruit seem to be a hot topic?
Well, if you look around the web about the benefits of jackfruit all you seem to find are articles talking about it’s versatility in cooking and the ease of growing it. Not too often do you find unique supplemental claims about it that don’t involve it being used in a new recipe.
So why is this fruit even relevant to supplementation?
Fruits and veggies pop up in the supplemental realm every now and then, usually because:
- They seem to have a very high level of a particular vitamin or mineral.
- They’re simply hyped up for hype’s sake.
- They’re cheap and practical to produce, thus cost manufacturers pennies that they then sell for dollars.
- They have a special unique compound in them.
The first one seems to be the only one that does not apply to jackfruit.
A cursory look at the Wikipedia page, which contains its nutritional breakdown from the USDA, clearly shows that it’s not a great source of any vitamin or mineral. It’s decent, sure, but at best it has 25% of the RDI for vitamin B6.
While jackfruit is getting some hype as well, it sure isn’t at the level of acai yet—acai being the prototypical “market it before the scientists tell us it’s useless” fruit. Something like camu camu also falls into this category, being sold since it sounds fancy.
The third point is one of the more important ones for jackfruit, and is perhaps the main reason why moringa oleifera became a dietary supplement. Both of these foods are resilient, produce a lot of nutrition for little work, and can help regions of the world where food is scarce.
Due to simply that reason they get studied. When something gets a few studies, the claims start rolling in, and if you’ve already made a few plantations of these things where they are being grown for pennies a pound it’s a great way to make money.
However, none of those reasons would make a good article.
The last reason, it containing a unique bioactive, seems to be relevant here. Jackfruit contains a particular lectin known as ArtinM.
ArtinM is a lectin found in jackfruit.
“Lectin” is a term that may set off warning bells to some. It refers to a protein structure that has high affinity for a certain type of sugar.
While this sounds harmless or irrelevant, lectins have many times been linked to harm via interacting with blood or the intestines.
Phytohaemagglutinin (PHA) is a lectin in kidney beans that’s seen as unhealthy, glutenin is a part of gluten which can cause severe intestinal damage to people with celiac disease, and even the assassination powder known as ricin is a lectin.
However, despite the fact that some lectins are indeed passive. Either their affinity for sugars is too weak to really care about, they get digested, or rather than causing problems with the immune system they actually bolster it.
In the case of ArtinM, preliminary evidence (on isolated cells) shows that there’s some promise for this lectin in increasing immunity—specifically, a type of immune cell known as a T1 immune cell that helps mediate how the body senses pathogens.
Unfortunately, we don’t even have rat studies at this point—just studies on isolated cells.
If the above studies hold true in humans then it would follow that jackfruit, via ArtinM, could help prevent you from catching infections but for now that statement isn’t proven.
At this moment in time, the only other collection of studies that could be seen as a “body of evidence” is that of jackfruit and blood sugar.
Rather than being a fruit of pure sugar, jackfruit has some interesting starches contained within them (starch being a term used to refer to long-chain carbohydrates). These starches not only have physical properties of interest to food manufacturers but also suggest a low glycemic index.
There are also some potential anti-diabetic properties of the antioxidants in this fruit, being shown twice to help in rat models of diabetes—both of these studies use an ethanolic (fat soluble) extract, so while eating the fruit could mimic it drinking a jackfruit tea may not as teas are simple water extractions.
That’s the limit of the studies on this topic at the moment, none in humans.
In a way, it sounds similar to prickly pear fruit where the most interesting part of it is that it’s a fruit that could potentially help with diabetes—usually sources of sugar aren’t advisable for the treatment of diabetes.
At this moment in time there are no estimates as to the ideal “dose” of jackfruit, if you can even call it a dose. The only bioactive, ActinM, could vary in dose from one batch of fruit to the next and, even then, there are no human studies to determine the active dose.
If you desire a fruit source that could potentially help immunity, or simply like the taste of jackfruit, then don’t worry too much about the dose—just consume it in whatever manner is tasty to you.
The information is too limited to tell whether or not jackfruit can be used as a functional food—“functional food” being a term that refers to food that also confers a medical or practical function.
It seems that people with diabetes might fare better with jackfruit than they would with other fruits that may have a higher glycemic index but, in the grand scheme of things, it would be more prudent to just to buy Metamucil and eat more protein rather than adding a tropical fruit.
At this moment in time, just eat jackfruit if you like the taste—pineapple and banana alone seems like a creamy and delectable combination but some aromatic hints of apple and mango as well? Enticing.
At this moment in time, there’s no convincing evidence to suggest that jackfruit is a viable supplement.
However, due to how easy it is to grow and market paired with the fact that it‘s a fancy sounding tropical fruit it may be heavily marketed in the near future. If this is the case then it could go the route of acai or camu camu, being buzzwords for snake oil.
If you like the taste of the fruit, enjoy it, but otherwise don’t worry too much about jackfruit.