Misleading: Soursop (or graviola) has not been tested in humans as a cancer therapy. While extracts have shown effectiveness against cancer cells in the lab, we don’t know if they would be safe and effective in patients
FULL CLAIM: “Mucus is the cause of all diseases”; “Too much mucus in your joints – that’s arthritis”; “Soursop [is] 10,000 times more effective than chemotherapy for cancer”
A video originally posted to TikTok and shared around 5,000 times on Facebook claimed that “mucus is the cause of all diseases” and listed ways to reduce the production of mucus.
Mucus is a protective secretion produced by the body. Mucus can lubricate and protect the linings of the respiratory and digestive systems, and trap small particles or bacteria. In contrast to the claim, mucus is an important part of the body’s defense against disease.
Diseases can have a very wide range of causes, including infections, genetic mutations, environmental exposure, and lifestyle. Diseases, such as those caused by viruses, affect all forms of life from animals to bacteria.
In some human diseases, excess mucus can be a symptom but it isn’t the cause of the disease. The video specifically listed sinusitis and bronchitis as being caused by mucus. These diseases are characterized by a build-up of excess mucus, but this is typically due to an underlying cause like infection or inflammation.
Arthritis is not caused by mucus
The video also stated “Too much mucus in your joints – that’s arthritis.” The two most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, where the immune system attacks the joints, causing inflammation. Osteoarthritis is caused by a breakdown of joint cartilage and bone. In neither of these main forms of arthritis does mucus cause the disease.
In cases of osteoarthritis, the damage can cause mucus cysts to form in finger joints. However, these mucus cysts are a symptom of arthritis, rather than the cause. These cysts can be drained or removed to prevent them from rupturing and risking infection. However, removing the cysts doesn’t treat the underlying arthritis.
Diet doesn’t alter the body’s pH
The video contains links to a website promoting the claims by the late herbalist “Dr. Sebi”, whose real name was Alfredo Bowman and had no medical training. These claims include that all disease is caused by mucus, which comes from eating acidic foods. The video lists foods that supposedly reduce acidity in the body. Although changes in diet can alter the pH (a measure of acidity) of urine, the pH within the body is carefully controlled to remain within a narrow window that barely changes.
In a previous Health Feedback review of alkaline water, Tanis Fenton, Adjunct Associate Professor, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, said:
Some marketing suggests that drinking alkaline water helps us keep our bodies alkaline, but our bodies are kept constantly at a slightly alkaline pH without any help from our food or drinking water. In fact, the only people who have a pH that differs from 7.4 are people who are extremely ill in intensive care units.
Reviews of the evidence into the so-called alkaline diet didn’t find that it is effective against cancer or osteoporosis, other than potentially in rare cases, such as those with chronic kidney disease[4,5]. As explained in a previous Health Feedback review, claims by “Dr. Sebi” that the alkaline diet can cure AIDS are also incorrect.
Soursop is not a cancer treatment
Among the video’s claims about different foods is that “soursop [is] 10,000 times more effective than chemotherapy for cancer.” Soursop, also known as graviola, is a fruit native to tropical regions of the Americas and the Caribbean. According to the charity Cancer Research UK, there haven’t been any studies of soursop in humans for treating cancer.
Laboratory studies have shown that extracts from soursop can kill several types of cancer cells. However, this doesn’t suggest that it would make a suitable treatment for patients. Clinical trials are needed to show that the potential treatment can stop the cancer cells at doses that are safe for patients. Laboratory studies have also found that chemicals in soursop can cause nerve damage and cross into the brain from the bloodstream.
Diseases come in many forms and have many causes. They can affect animals as well as humans, so it isn’t possible to blame a single lifestyle factor as the cause of all disease. Mucus is a common symptom of disease, but it is not the cause. Unless a person also has diseases that affect organs responsible for regulating the body’s pH such as the liver and kidneys, diets attempting to reduce the acidity of the body cannot change the body’s pH and there is no robust evidence to support consuming an alkaline diet to treat disease.
- 1 – Remer and Manz (1995) Potential renal acid load of foods and its influence on urine pH. Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
- 2 – Koeppen (2009) The kidney and acid-base regulation. Advances in Physiology Education.
- 3 – Fenton and Huang (2016) Systematic review of the association between dietary acid load, alkaline water and cancer. BMJ Open.
- 4 – Frasetto et al. (2018) Acid Balance, Dietary Acid Load, and Bone Effects—A Controversial Subject. Nutrients.
- 5 – Angeloco et al. (2019) Alkaline Diet and Metabolic Acidosis: Practical Approaches to the Nutritional Management of Chronic Kidney Disease. Journal of Renal Nutrition.
- 6 – Ioannis et al. (2015) Graviola: A Systematic Review on Its Anticancer Properties. American Journal of Cancer Prevention.