Can Bitter Melon Help Type 2 Diabetes?

Bitter melon (Momordica Charantia), as it is sometimes called, are grown in Asia, East Africa and South America. Some researches show that bitter melon extract improves glucose tolerance, reduces blood sugar levels, and lowers HbA1c in patients with type 2 diabetes. In studies the fresh fruit, its freshly squeezed juice and the homogenized suspension of bitter melon have led to important  diminution in both fasting and postprandial blood glucose. Bitter melon is not like most chemical medications, which are efficacious just in one target organ or tissue; rather, it influences glucose metabolism all over the body.

Bitter Melon and Diabetes Treatment

Bitter melon may have blood-sugar-lowering properties that could help treat diabetes. Bitter melon contains the constituents vicine, charantin and polypeptide-P which are thought to be responsible for bitter melon’s properties in reducing blood sugar levels. Together they enhance glucose uptake and glycogen synthesis in the liver, muscle, and adipose tissue and improve glucose tolerance. In a study published in the March 2008 edition of the International Journal of Chemistry and Biology, scientists discovered that bitter melon contains compounds that activate the enzyme AMPK, which enhances glucose uptake by cells. Bitter melon main components interact with the enzyme AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), this enzyme regulates fuel metabolism and facilitates glucose uptake. This protein, known as AMPK, is normally activated in the body through exercise. Although there are drugs that can  activate this protein, this plant provides the same result with no adverse effects.

A study reported in the journal “Phytomedicine” in 1996 found that bitter melon helped to decrease blood sugar levels in individuals with diabetes. Another clinical trial reported in 1999 found that taking bitter melon reduced blood sugar levels in people with non-insulin-dependent diabetes. A study, reported in a 1999 edition of the “Bangladesh Medical Research Council Bulletin“, used an aqueous suspension of bitter melon vegetable pulp in 100 participants with type 2. The researchers examined the effect at one hour after bitter melon was administered and then 2 hours after a 75-gr oral glucose tolerance test. The average blood glucose was 222 mg/dl, which was lower than the previous day’s 2-hour value of 257 mg/dl.

In the “Journal of Medicinal Food“,  scientists analyzed the effect of  Momordica charantia extracts in diabetic and healthy rats. As a result, bitter melon strongly reduced glucose levels in diabetic rats and showed favorable effects in the regulation of blood glucose in normal rats. In 2007, a study by the “Philippine Department of Health” determined a daily dose of 100 mg per kilogram of body weight is comparable to 2.5 mg/kg of the antidiabetes medication glibenclamide used twice per day.  In Jan 2011, the findings of a 4-week studies were reported in the Journal of  “Ethnopharmacology“, which demonstrated that a 2000 mg daily dose of bitter melon significantly reduced blood glucose levels among patients with type 2 diabetes. Egyptian researchers develop bitter melon tablet to fight diabetes. Insulin is administered through injection because it is broken down by stomach enzymes if taken orally. The novelty of the bitter melon tablet is that “the fruit’s active ingredients have a specific coating that prevents hydrolysis of this substance by enzymes,” explains Dr. Souad al-Gengaihi.

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