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'Jackfruit flour may control diabetes'

October 28, 2020 16:22 IST
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'The group having rice flour and wheat flour showed an increase in glycosylated haemoglobin (HbA1c), and the group that took the jackfruit flour had a significant decrease in HbA1c.'
'Our results showed a decrease in fasting blood glucose (FBG) and postprandial glucose (PPG) after the green jackfruit flour meal.'

IMAGE: A vendor sells jackfruits in Kochi. Photograph: A S Satheesh/ANI Photo

In the first part of his interview with Shobha Warrier/, James Joseph, the founder of Jackfruit 365, revealed how an e-mail from President A P J Abdul Kalam set him on his entrepreneurial journey.

Read on!

You named your business Jackfruit 365. but jackfruit is very seasonal.

That's where my marketing sense came in. It is to break the mindset that it is a seasonal fruit that I named it Jackfruit 365. It has to be available every day if we were to get its benefits.

In fact, I dissected every part of the jackfruit to learn its anatomy, and what was useful for us.

I found that it had the protein, pectin, as a soluble binding factor.

Using this soluble fibre as binder, I made a flour which falls between rice flour and wheat flour.

Rice flour has less binding while wheat flour has more binding. The advantage is that this jackfruit flour can be added to both dosa batter and atta.

It is this flour that I invented, and we got the patent.

Even before this, I had to design a machine to crack open the jackfruit as the job was labour-intensive.

If we got 10 kg of jackfruit from one labour per day, after we got the machine we got 500 kg per labour per day. The machine could bring the cost down significantly and also ensured better quality.

Unfortunately, in the meantime we lost Dr Kalam.

Though I had both the machine and the flour, I didn't have anyone to talk about what we had achieved.

So, I had to do the clinical trial like pharma companies. And it took so long. I should have been running the campaign that we are doing today, in 2017 as I had the product ready in 2017 itself.

You mean the 3-year delay in the final outcome was because Dr Kalam passed away?

Yes. He had told me, 'You don't need to do any study; it is pure basic science. If somebody says replacing rice and wheat with a vegetable is not good for diabetes, they don't know what diabetes is.'

But we have regulations, and they say, unless you do randomised control trial, you can't say the flour can reduce blood sugar level.

So, did you do a clinical trial?

Yes, we did. We had to do a randomised control trial for three months starting February 2019 in a government medical college in Andhra Pradesh.

IMAGE: Phulkas made from green jackfruit flour. Photograph: Kind courtesy James Joseph.

Some 40 people with type 2 diabetes mellitus (who were on medicine for one year and not on insulin) were in the trial.

About 20 of them were given a diet of rice and wheat flour, and another 20 were on the jackfruit flour diet.

What we did was, we replaced an equal volume of rice or wheat with the green jackfruit flour.

For example, in the trial, if one group was having rotis made of only wheat flour, the other group had rotis made of wheat flour and jackfruit flour. There was an equal volume replacement of wheat or rice flour with jackfruit flour.

As expected, the group having rice flour and wheat flour showed an increase in glycosylated haemoglobin (HbA1c), and the group that took the jackfruit flour had a significant decrease in HbA1c.

Our results showed a decrease in fasting blood glucose (FBG) and postprandial glucose (PPG) after the green jackfruit flour meal.

How did you plan to market the product after the clinical trial, as a medicinal product?

No, it is not a medicine. This is a food, and it will remain a food.

What we are suggesting is only medical nutrition therapy. In fact, every doctor is supposed to practice medical nutrition therapy before he prescribes a single medicine.

Medical nutrition therapy says, reduce carbohydrates, reduce calories, reduce glycaemic load, increase fibre and replace it with more vegetables.

We do all the five together with jackfruit flour.

Chakka (jackfruit) in Malayalam is a green vegetable. It becomes chakka pazham only when it ripens.

The medical texts say jackfruit is bad for diabetes because in English, there is only one word, that is, jackfruit.

That's why I decided to change the name raw jackfruit to green jackfruit flour though in India, raw is unripe but in theWwestern world raw is uncooked.

I want to reinforce the fact that it is a green vegetable, and we are replacing rice and wheat with a vegetable.

IMAGE: Idlis made with green jackfruit flour cooked in jackfruit leaves. Photograph: Kind courtes, James Joseph

Would you sell your product only in powder form?

Yes. One parallel I can draw is oats.

Anything you make with jackfruit flour will be beneficial. In fact, jackfruit flour is 40% more fibre content per calorie than oats.

Now, you have won the start-up national award in the food category for your jackfruit flour.

The question actually is, why did I apply for the award? I applied because now that Dr Kalam is not there, I needed State backup for my study.

The glycaemic study was funded by KSIDC (Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation) and because it was government-funded, I got the Start Up India recognition.

The icing on the cake I saw was, all the finalists would get preferred access to government projects. That was what I was looking for when I applied for this award.

I can't do this on my own as the diabetic population is all over India. Only through government schemes you can popularise this and only then, the diabetic population will get the benefit.

I had applied in November but there was no news for six months, and I had almost forgotten about it.

Yes, I never expected to be the winner. I only wanted to be a finalist.

You had hoped for help from Dr Kalam. Do you think the award will be able to replace Dr Kalam?

I think social media will replace Dr Kalam.

Thousands of people are ordering the product from Amazon and also from shops now, because they want to control their blood sugar.

People are more desperate to control their blood sugar because of the Covid situation.

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