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No, jackfruit not a ‘strong cancer killer’

The tropical fruit jackfruit is a “strong cancer killer”, claims an article shared on Facebook from the site Healthy Food Vision.

It says jackfruit contains phytonutrients – nutrients from plants – such as isoflavones, lignans and saponins, which have “strong anti-cancer benefits”.

“The nutrients inside the jackfruit have the ability to forbid the damaging free radicals which are famous due to their ability to cause cancer and a bunch of other various chronic illnesses.”

The article explains the ways each phytonutrient can help fight different types of cancer and ulcer.

It seems to be an almost word for word copy of an article on the site Secret Nutritions, which it gives as a source. It also credits a YouTube video. Neither give any credible sources for the claim.

Other versions of the claim also appear on Facebook. But is it true? We checked. 

‘Jackfruit not known cure for cancer’

Africa Check asked the National Cancer Institute, the US government’s principal agency for cancer research, about the article.

“There are no studies that prove that any special diet, food, vitamins, minerals, dietary supplement, herb, or combination of these can slow cancer, cure it, or keep it from coming back,” the institute told us in an email.

“Jackfruit is not a known cure for cancer, and claims that jackfruit is an effective cancer treatment are false.

“The biggest danger of alternative therapies in most cases is that a patient may lose the chance to be helped by standard medical treatment. Delays or interruptions in medical treatments may give the cancer time to grow and make it less likely that treatment will help.” 

Dr Alfred Karagu of the National Cancer Institute of Kenya – an agency set up under Kenyan law – backed up these observations.

“It is incorrect to claim that one single fruit can cure cancer, especially without providing any research evidence behind it,” he told Africa Check.

‘Not aware of any evidence that jackfruit can cure cancer’

Prof Edzard Ernst, an academic physician and researcher specialising in complementary and alternative medicine, is emeritus professor at Exeter University in the UK. In his 2019 book “Alternative Medicine”, he warns that scientific evidence is needed for any medical treatment.

Africa Check asked Ernst about the article, particularly its claim that the jackfruit’s nutrients “forbid the damaging free radicals” that “cause cancer and a bunch of other various chronic illnesses”.

“I am not aware of any evidence that jackfruit can cure cancer,” he told us in an email.

“The quote is somewhat odd and open to interpretation. In as much as it says that jackfruit contains ingredients with antioxidant activity, it seems to be correct. However, this applies to many plants and is not necessarily a proof of any positive health effects.”

In 2017 Ernst wrote an article titled “Jackfruit: an effective anti-cancer remedy? How bogus information can cost lives.” In it he says people spreading the claim need to back it up with evidence of research that proves the fruit fights cancer.

“Where are the references to clinical trials showing that jackfruit does cure this or that type of cancer?” he asks.

Jackfruit does have health benefits

A number of scientific articles have reported on the health benefits of jackfruit – “rich in nutrients including carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals” – and its cancer-preventing (not curing) properties.

But experts warn against drawing too many conclusions from such studies. 

Eating fruit and vegetables good for you, but not cure for cancer

Fruit and vegetables won’t cure cancer, but they’re still healthy to eat, according to the UK’s Cancer Council.

“Eating fruit and vegetables is not a cure for cancer,” it says

“While there is some evidence that a diet high in fruit and vegetables is of no significant benefit if you already have cancer, it is very unlikely to be harmful.”

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