A fruit vendor at a market in Jakarta. ( AFP / Bay Ismoyo)

Eating fruit on an empty stomach does not 'cure cancer', experts say

Copyright AFP 2017-2022. All rights reserved.

Social media posts circulating in Indonesia claim that eating fruit on an empty stomach will "cure cancer". The claim has circulated online in the Southeast Asian nation since at least 2013. It also recently recirculated in French-speaking African countries. But experts told AFP there is no scientific evidence to support the claim.

"EATING FRUIT ON AN EMPTY STOMACH," reads this Indonesian-language Facebook post published on November 26, 2021.

"Dr STEPHEN MAK treats terminal cancer patients in a unique way. Many of the patients recovered. 'This is my strategy to cure cancer. The success rate is 80 percent,' said Mak."

"Cancer patients should not die. Anti-cancer therapy has been found, namely eating fruit on an empty stomach or [when one gets] very hungry.

"'I apologise to the hundreds of cancer patients who have died as a result of conventional treatment,' he concluded."

The post adds: "If you eat fruit on an empty stomach, the detoxification of your body system increases many times over."

Screenshot of the misleading post, taken on December 21, 2021

The post does not specify which type of cancer the purported doctor — "Dr Stephen Mak" — was referring to. AFP is also not able to verify his identity.

Cancer is the "leading cause of death worldwide", killing almost 10 million people in 2020, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Alternative "cures", unusual medications and hazardous treatment advice for the disease are often touted online worldwide.  

Identical claims have also appeared in Indonesian on Facebook here; on YouTube here; and on Twitter here, here, here and here since at least 2013. 

Experts in France and Africa told AFP there was no evidence to support the false claim after it also emerged in French-language posts.

Indonesian experts also told AFP that eating fruit on an empty stomach cannot "cure" cancer.

No scientific basis

Prof Dr Aru Wisaksono Sudoyo, chairman of the Indonesian Cancer Foundation, said the claim has no scientific basis.

"Fruit is good for your health, even to prevent cancer, but is not cancer treatment," he told AFP on December 15, 2021.

Dr Nessa Wulandari, a physician nutrition specialist at St Carolus Hospital in Jakarta, also told AFP that the claim is a "myth".

"Food is only supportive in cancer treatment," she said, adding that it "supports the healing process". 

Dr L. Arif Firiandri Yulius, a physician nutrition specialist at Edelweiss Hospital in the Indonesian city of Bandung, also dismissed the claim.

"There has been no scientific evidence that eating fruit on an empty stomach will cure cancer," he told AFP.

AFP has previously debunked claims that various food items — including lemon waterapricot seeds, hot pineapple water, stink beans, dandelion root extract, soursop and mangosteen — are effective cancer cures.