Does raw food cure a laundry list of health conditions including autism, HIV and cancer? No, that's not true: Raw food, specifically raw fruits and vegetables, holds both health benefits and dangers. There is no substantial research to determine the relationship between raw food and several health conditions.
The claim appeared in the caption of a Facebook Live video (archived here) recorded on January 5, 2022. The caption, which included phone numbers that seemed to be listed so that viewers could contact the user making the claim, read:
Raw food will cure diabetes herpes virus yeast infection hiv high blood pressure arthritis pain loss autism dysfunction eretile dysfunction pain treatment heart disease kidney disease cancer infection 18687584430 and 16314554752
This is what the post looked like on Facebook on January 13, 2022:
(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Thu Jan 13 20:18 2022 UTC)
The person featured in the Facebook Live video appears to refer only to raw fruits and vegetables. However, just because fruits and vegetables are raw does not mean they are completely healthy or curative. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that although raw fruits and vegetables can help protect individuals from serious health conditions, failing to properly wash and prepare them can lead to illness:
Sometimes, raw fruits and vegetables contain harmful germs that can make you and your family sick, such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria. CDC estimates that germs on fresh produce cause a large percentage of U.S. foodborne illnesses.
The safest produce is cooked; the next safest is washed. Enjoy uncooked fruits and vegetables while taking steps to avoid foodborne illness, also known as food poisoning.
Kantha Shelke, a food scientist and a principal at Corvus Blue LLC, a contract food science and nutrition research firm, told Lead Stories during a phone call on January 13, 2022, that such risks mean that eating raw foods, in general, is a delicate undertaking. In a follow-up email, she explained:
To consume raw foods safely requires knowledge of the source of the food, when and how it was sourced/prepared, what else needs to be done to make it safe, and the health condition of the consumer (so they are not immunocompromised). History has shown that 'safety' was the major reason why some raw foods have been prepared in a characteristic way. For example:
sushi contains wasabi--for its antimicrobial properties
ceviche contains acids--for its antimicrobial and pH to cook proteins
Lead Stories searched for more information about "cures" for some of the conditions listed in the Facebook Live video caption. There are no consistent, definitive cures for conditions such as autism, diabetes, cancer and HIV, although there are treatments. Shelke told us in her email that autism, cancer and HIV are "health conditions with a wide and distinctly different range of cause and severity." She said she was not aware of any "irrefutable scientific evidence" that raw food helped treat autism. Raw food's connection to cancer may not be much different:
While some types of cooking techniques have been implicated in some types of cancer, there is little scientific evidence showing raw food can support, prevent, or cure cancer.
Conversely, high blood pressure has proven to be lowered through the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, which can include raw leafy vegetables. However, the DASH diet can also include non-raw and cooked foods.
In an email to Lead Stories on January 13, 2022, Christopher Gardner, the Rehnborg Farquhar Professor of Medicine at Stanford University who specializes in nutrition science, said the claim is not true. "Raw food" is a broad term that could range from raw meat to raw vegetables, and each of the conditions listed in the Facebook Live video caption would require separate and multiple research trials to determine the condition's relationship to the various kinds of raw food, he said. Such widespread studies have never been conducted. He also emphasized the difficulty of following a raw food diet:
Very few people have been found to maintain an all raw food diet for more than a few weeks or at most a few months. There are some individuals who claim to be able to do this longer, but this has not been established in any kind of controlled study where adherence to the raw food was monitored and verified.
Lead Stories has previously fact-checked several claims related to food and diet, which can be found here.