The jackfruit tree (Artocarpus heterophyllus) produces the largest known edible fruit in the world and is part of the mulberry or fig family (Moraceae). All parts of the jackfruit (seed, leaf, pulp, root bark, and stems) have been studied extensively for their antioxidant, anticancer, and anti-bacterial properties. Keep reading to learn about the benefits and side effects of jackfruit.
What is Jackfruit?
Jackfruit, also known as jack tree, fenne, or sometimes simply jack, is related to breadfruit and originated in India. It is part of the mulberry or fig family and is currently found in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide including Southeast Asia, Africa, and Brazil [R, R].
The jackfruit fruit contains fleshy bulbs and starchy seeds, both of which are used as food. This tree produces the highest yield and largest known edible fruit (average weight of 10 kg) than any other fruit tree species [R, R].
Jackfruit is rich in phytonutrients such as phenols and flavonoids and has been studied for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anticancer, and antidiabetic qualities [R, R, R, R, R, R].
Jackfruit pulp has many valuable micronutrients including [R]:
Raw jackfruit flesh is regarded as a good source of carbohydrates. A 100 g portion of ripe jackfruit flesh has 94 calories, 23 g carbohydrate, and 1.5 g fiber. This fiber content is believed to contribute to the jackfruits’ relatively low blood sugar response when compared to sugar and other tropical fruits [R, R, R].
The jackfruit seed can be boiled or roasted and preserved in syrup like chestnuts, or ground into a meal and blended with wheat flour. The pulp and seed are often ground together into a meal commonly eaten in Sri Lanka [R, R].
Mechanism of Action
Extracts from jackfruit suppress cancer growth by selectively increasing programmed cell death (apoptosis) in cancer cells. Apoptosis is increased by:
- Activating enzymes (caspase) involved in apoptosis [R, R]
- Preventing cell division of the cancer cell cycle [R]
- Changing the cancer cell’s structure and shape [R]
- Decreasing enzymes that influence cancer cell reproduction, survival, and movement [R]
Lectins from jackfruit stimulate cells to eliminate harmful fungi and prevent widespread fungal infections. This immune response occurs by the lectins increasing production of inflammatory cytokines (IL-12) which then increases white blood cells at the site of infection [R].
1) Jackfruit May Benefit Diabetes
Treatment of healthy and diabetic rats with jackfruit leaf or stem bark extracts lowered fasting blood sugar levels, improved tolerance to sugar, and/or increased blood insulin levels. This antidiabetic activity was due to the high flavonoid content in the jackfruit extracts [R, R, R, R].
In the lab and in rat blood, jackfruit extracts stopped enzyme activity linked to starch breakdown, suggesting the use of jackfruit for blood sugar control [R].
2) Jackfruit Fights Cancer
Phenols, flavonoids, and lectins in the jackfruit are the most promising compounds to protect against and kill cancer cells. These phytochemicals are produced in the jackfruit fruit, peel, seeds, and wood [R, R, R].
The pulp from jackfruit was protective against gene mutations and reduced rapid growth of mouse cancer cells [R].
Flavonoids extracted from jackfruit seeds were toxic to human colon cancer cells by selectively inducing apoptosis [R].
Extracts from jackfruit wood were selectively toxic to human breast cancer cells by increasing apoptosis and altering the shape of the cancer cells [R].
In the lab, flavonoids extracted from jackfruit twigs reduced growth and multiplication of human prostate cancer cells [R].
Lectins extracted from jackfruit seeds protected mice against liver cancer by blocking cell cycle and increasing apoptosis in cancer cells [R].
Jackfruit extracts were toxic to throat cancer cells in the lab by changing cell structure and increasing apoptosis in cancer cells [R].
In the lab, several flavonoids extracted from jackfruit twigs reduced activity of human lung cancer cells as measured by a decrease in the growth of cancer cells [R].
3) Jackfruit Combats Pathogens
Extracts from the root bark, pulp, leaves, and stems of jackfruit have broad-spectrum antibacterial activity against numerous gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. These bacteria include those causing tooth decay (Streptococcus mutans), strep throat (Streptococcus pyogenes) as well as foodborne pathogens (Listeria and Salmonella species) [R, R, R, R, R].
Both jackfruit leaf and shell extracts inhibited the growth of food-borne pathogens including, Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, and Staphylococcus aureus. This activity was strongest in shell extracts, likely because of their higher flavonoid content [R, R].
Flavonoids from jackfruit wood (artocarpin) slowed the growth of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli bacteria in the lab. The flavonoids also enhanced the antimicrobial activities of several synthetic antibiotics (tetracycline, ampicillin, and norfloxacin) likely by altering the membrane permeability of the bacteria [R, R].
Two flavonoids extracted from jackfruit leaves reduced the growth of bacteria linked to the formation and progression of tooth decay (Streptococcus mitis, Streptococcus mutans, Porphyromonas gingivalis) [R].
In the lab, jackfruit extracts suppressed 2 herpes viruses (herpes simplex 2 and varicella-zoster) and the rare cytomegalovirus [R].
In the lab, lectins extracted from jackfruit seeds slowed the growth of three fungi (Fusarium moniliforme, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and Paracoccidioides brasiliensis). The lectins stimulated an immune response by increasing inflammatory cytokines (IL-12), which killed the invading fungus [R, R].
Jackfruit lectins increased the elimination of the parasite Leishmania major from human white blood cells (neutrophils). The lectins increased mediators of cell inflammation (TNF-α and IL-1β), pancreatic enzymes (elastase), and elevated antimicrobial activity in the cells [R].
4) Jackfruit Has Antioxidant Effects
Three flavonoid antioxidants extracted from jackfruit reduced fat breakdown in rat brains by scavenging free radicals [R].
The antioxidant activity of jackfruit is linked to its phenolic and flavonoid content. These compounds are high in the jackfruit peel but also present in the fruit pulp, roots, twigs, and leaves [R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R].
According to several studies, the high vitamin C, phenol, and flavonoid content of the jackfruit are correlated with its protective effects against free radicals involved in the development of diseases such as cancer [R, R, R].
5) Jackfruit May Reduce Inflammation
Jackfruit peel extracts inhibited the COX-1 inflammatory mediator in rats in a way that was comparable to the standard anti-inflammatory drug, diclofenac [R].
In the lab, jackfruit peel extracts and isolated flavonoids inhibited mediators (COX-1 and 2, nitric oxide, IL-1β, IL-6, TNF-α) associated with inflammation and septic shock. The level of anti-inflammatory activity in the jackfruit peel extracts was similar to diclofenac, a standard anti-inflammatory drug [R, R, R, R].
6) Jackfruit Is a Natural Anticoagulant
In the lab, purified enzymes (proteases), seed extracts, and latex derived from jackfruit reduced blood clotting. This suggests a potential use in the treatment of disorders related to obstructed blood flow from clots (strokes, lung embolisms, and deep vein thrombosis) [R, R, R].
7) Jackfruit May Improve Immune Function
Jackfruit seed lectins increased white blood cells (mast cells) in the bone marrow of rats, suggesting a role for this extract in stimulating immune response [R].
Lectins from jackfruit seed activated an immune response against introduced pathogens by stimulating white blood cell production (mast cells and neutrophils) and increasing inflammatory cytokines (IL-17) in the lab and in rats [R, R, R].
8) Jackfruit May Help Heal Wounds
Jackfruit leaf extracts had the same wound healing activity as a pharmaceutical grade antiseptic cream (Betadine) in healthy mice [R].
Out of 98 plant extracts tested in the lab, jackfruit showed the greatest potential for wound healing activity as measured by its ability to increase prostaglandin-2 levels, an important hormone-like molecule that accelerates wound healing [R].
9) Jackfruit Can Help Maintain Bone Health
Natural pectin derived from jackfruit peel was biologically compatible with collagen and tissue stem cells and may be useful in bone grafting [R].
10) Jackfruit May Improve Digestion
Jackfruit seed contains prebiotic fibers that may support the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria in the digestive system [R].
11) Jackfruit May Decrease the Risk of Heart Disease
Jackfruit leaf extracts decreased total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and triglycerides, and increased high-density lipoprotein cholesterol in type 2 diabetic mice. This was likely due to the high content of antioxidant flavonoid in the extracts, specifically quercetin [R].
12) Jackfruit Leaves May Improve Oral Health
In the lab, 2 flavonoids extracted from jackfruit leaves reduced the growth of bacteria linked to the formation and progression of tooth decay (Streptococcus mitis, Streptococcus mutans, Porphyromonas gingivalis) [R].
There may be a higher likelihood of a jackfruit allergy if a birch pollen or latex allergy is present. This is because of the similarity of allergens present in jackfruit, natural latex, and pollen [R, R, R].
Lectins extracted from jackfruit seeds can stimulate the immune system. This could negatively impact patients with tissue transplants or immunosuppression therapy [R].
Although not well studied in humans, jackfruit may impact blood coagulation and should be used with caution in people with blood disorders [R].
Although not studied in humans, jackfruit may inhibit libido, sexual arousal, sexual vigor, and sexual performance in men [R].
Limitations and Caveats
Most of the benefits of jackfruit were only studied in animals and cells. While the findings are significant, these benefits may or may not apply to humans, and these extracts need to be further evaluated for effects, optimal dose, long-term safety, and potential side effects.
No drug interactions have been documented.
Ripe jackfruit fruit is sweet and eaten raw. It can be added to smoothies or mixed with yogurt or ice cream. Seeds can be roasted or boiled like chestnuts or turned into flour.
Unripe jackfruit is eaten more like a vegetable or meat substitute and is canned in water, brine, or pre-made sauces found at your local grocery store or online. It is commonly used in curries and vegan dishes like pulled ‘pork’ and tacos.
Jackfruit leaf tea made from the leaves is readily available from suppliers.
Information is lacking about the safest or most effective dose of jackfruit.
A tea preparation of jackfruit leaves equivalent to 20 grams per kilogram body weight is taken orally lowered blood sugar levels in both healthy and diabetic adults [R].
Several users found canned, unripe jackfruit to be a versatile, plant-based substitute for meats due to its chewy and sinewy texture. However, one user found jackfruit as a pulled ‘pork’ substitute lacked the fattiness of the animal meat.
One user was happy not only with the consistency but also with the ease of use of jackfruit flesh. They also loved how fast it took to make a vegan version of pulled pork.
Some users found the flavor of jackfruit to be similar to mushrooms and artichokes.