By Shevlin Sebastian
Photos: Jackfruit being sold in Kerala; a traditional raw jackfruit meal; James Joseph
One day, at Koothattukulam, Fr. Thomas Brahmanavelil had invited a fellow priest for dinner. The dinner consisted of cooked unripe jackfruit. It was after one hour, after his friend left, that the diabetic priest took his insulin injection.
Within minutes he collapsed to the floor. Fr. Thomas had become hypoglycaemic (low blood sugar). He somehow managed to reach a sugar sachet lying on a bedside table and had it. After two hours, he regained some strength. When Fr. Thomas checked his sugar level it was 50 mg/dl (milligrams per decilite). The normal is 82 to 110 mg/dl.
Fr. Thomas was puzzled. He did not know why this had happened to him. At this time he met businessman James Joseph, who runs the company Jackfruit365, which sells freeze-dried jackfruit. “I got worried by what happened to Fr. Thomas,” says James. “Because I am selling raw jackfruit. Will it be a health problem for a diabetic patient? I had once read that jackfruit can regulate sugar levels.”
James got in touch with the Delhi-based scientist Dr. Vivek Garg, who is an expert on diabetes. The doctor, confirmed through a paper, which appeared in the Ceylon Medical Journal, that after taking a raw jackfruit meal, the sugar levels drop shortly, as compared to a standard meal.
So then what happened to Fr. Thomas? “When you take a normal meal, the sugar will go up, and gradually it tapers down,” says James. “But when you take the jackfruit meal, it goes up and drops suddenly within 30 minutes. Fr. Thomas took his insulin one hour later which means his sugar was already on a downward spiral. At that moment, if you inject insulin, it will further accelerate the decline of the sugar levels.”
Incidentally, raw jackfruit has only one-fifth of the sugar of the ripe jackfruit. “For dried raw jackfruit the sugar is 10.2 mg/dl for 100 grams, while for the ripe ones it is 57.6mg/dl,” says
James, who confirmed this result through a lab test at Kochi.
The conclusion: When you eat the high-fibre raw jackfruit, it transfers less sugar to the body, as compared to a meal with rice or wheat. So you need less insulin.
The father of Dr. Johny J. Kannampilly, Consulant Diabetologist of Lakeshore Hospital, Kochi, would use 38 units of insulin at night, after his chappati or rice meal, to get the sugar at 120mg/dl. “When he began having raw jackfruit, his insulin dose was reduced to 18 units,” says Dr. Johny.
The evidence seems to suggest that if you are a person with a low insulin dosage, you can avoid taking it on the days that you have raw jackfruit for dinner. Which is what Fr. Thomas is doing. “In the past two months, he has skipped insulin 20 times,” says James.
Says Dr. Johny, “There is a benefit when you have a raw jackfruit meal. But this needs further research and study. However, since diabetes cases are increasing in large numbers, we need to encourage food which has high-fibre and low sugar.”
(The New Indian Express, Kerala editions)