Scientists have uncovered the therapeutic properties of bitter melon, a vegetable and traditional Chinese medicine, that make it a powerful treatment for Type 2 diabetes.
Teams from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica pulped roughly a tonne of fresh bitter melon and extracted four very promising bioactive components. These four compounds all appear to activate the enzyme AMPK, a protein well known for regulating fuel metabolism and enabling glucose uptake. The results are published online today in the international journal Chemistry & Biology.
“We can now understand at a molecular level why bitter melon works as a treatment for diabetes,” said Professor David James, Director of the Diabetes and Obesity Program at Garvan. “By isolating the compounds we believe to be therapeutic, we can investigate how they work together in our cells.”
People with Type 2 diabetes have an impaired ability to convert the sugar in their blood into energy in their muscles. This is partly because they don’t produce enough insulin, and partly because their fat and muscle cells don’t use insulin effectively, a phenomenon known as ‘insulin resistance’.
Exercise activates AMPK in muscle, which in turn mediates the movement of glucose transporters to the cell surface, a very important step in the uptake of glucose from the circulation into tissues in the body. This is a major reason that exercise is recommended as part of the normal treatment program for someone with Type 2 diabetes.
The four compounds isolated in bitter melon perform a very similar action to that of exercise, in that they activate AMPK.
Garvan scientists involved in the project, Drs Jiming Ye and Nigel Turner, both stress that while there are well known diabetes drugs on the market that also activate AMPK, they can have side effects.
“The advantage of bitter melon is that there are no known side effects,” said Dr Ye. “Practitioners of Chinese medicine have used it for hundreds of years to good effect.”
Garvan has a formal collaborative arrangement with the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica. In addition to continuing to work together on the therapeutic potential of bitter melon, we will be exploring other Chinese medicines.
Professor Yang Ye, from the Shanghai Institute and a specialist in natural products chemistry, isolated the different fractions from bitter melon and identified the compounds of interest.
bitter melon is an acquired taste.. but i am hooked!
I get it at my local oriental grocery, slice it up, put it on a greased pan, sprinkle with garlic powder, and bake until crisp.
but there are many oriental recipes for bitter melon. I've also pan fried it, but it is a bit like eggplant.. seems to drink the oil. but.. it is quite good this way. hey, maybe you could cook some in coconut oil, Harry.
I bought the NSI brand of Bitter Melon Fruit capsules (900 mg). I bought it when I thought my fasting blood glucose levels were going up, and I may become "pre-diabetic". I didn't have to start taking them, but they're still on my shelf. Type 2 diabetes in my family, and I wasn't about to go on any meds if I was diagnosed. Was gonna use these to "head it off".
__________________ "We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals." ~Immanual Kant~