The Rs 2,000-crore worth of commonly known poor man's fruit - jackfruit - which goes waste in the country every year, may turn out to be a big boon for the 62 million diabetes affected people in India, the highest in the world.
A comparative study done by Sydney University's Glycemic Index Research Service (SUGiRS), one of the leading research institutions in the world on Glycemic Index (GI) studies, has concluded that raw jackfruit as a regular food item can effectively keep sugar levels under control, when compared to regular meals like roti and rice.
The study, done between January and February, revealed while one cup of raw jackfruit had only glycemic load of 17, the same was 27 in two rotis of white wheat and 29 in one cup of white rice. In terms of calories, if one cup of raw jackfruit had only 115 kcal (kilocalorie or equal to 1,000 calories), the same was 185 in one cup of white rice and 239 in two rotis. Carbohydrate content was the lowest in jackfruit and fibre content was the highest, compared to roti and rice.
The study was assigned to the SUGiRS by Kochi based start-up God's Own Food Solutions (OPC), which sells freeze-dried jackfruit under the brand name JackFruit365. The firm was founded three years ago by former Microsoft India executive director James Joseph. The Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC) is seed funding the start-up.
"Though it is known to many of the traditional health system practitioners in jackfruit growing states like Kerala that raw jackfruit dishes are advisable to people suffering from diabetes, so far there were no scientific validation done to assess these facts especially on a global scale and with modern parameters. Therefore we assigned the study to SUGiRS, which is the best in the world for GI studies as recommended by the Glycemic Index Foundation and has tested GI values of more than 3,500 foods", said Joseph, now director of God's Own Food Solutions.
He said the firm will try to enlarge the scope of the study by collaborating with diabetologists with a view to recommend jackfruit as a potential food item to control sugar levels in diabetes patients. The firm has been devising and popularising several jackfruit-based South Indian and North Indian dishes in the past three years.
According to statistics from the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), India has more diabetics than any other nation of the world and the number will touch 100 million by 2030. Lifestyle disorders and food habits with high carbohydrate content are regarded as the main reason for India becoming the diabetes capital of the world.
India produces 10,000 tonnes of jackfruit worth over Rs 2,000 crore a year, but 80 per cent of the produce goes waste, especially during summer. Jackfruit normally grows in large numbers in coastal areas, especially the Konkan belt, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
"We had observed that most of the customers consuming up to 30 gm of raw jackfruit reduced or completely eliminated rice and wheat from their diet. In addition to reversing diabetic condition many customers experienced significant weight loss", says Joseph. He declined to reveal sales of his product and revenues, citing confidentiality agreements with the investors.