Bitter Melon does not look much like a melon at all, in fact it looks more like a lumpy cucumber. Native to Asia, it has been used both medicinally and as a vegetable in cooking typically in Asian cuisine.
But could this ugly looking vegetable hold the key in helping people rid themselves of Diabetes?
Researchers at The Garvan Institute of Medical Research think that it might have the potential to do this, since they have received funding to do more research on the Bitter Melon vegetable.
Bitter melon contains a protein, MAP30, that was patented by American scientists in 1996. These scientists stated that MAP30 is effective against tumors, AIDS , and other viruses.
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 bio-active 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’.
However, there is still more research needed to prove its effectiveness in the treatment of diabetes. Anyone reading this who decides that they would now like to try some bitter melon, will need to check with their health provider, if they are on diabetes medication, because bitter melon will interact with diabetic medication as so first check that this is safe to do so.
What Else Can Bitter Melon Help with?
Bitter Melon is sometimes used for a number of other health complaints, such as kidney stones, skin conditions, stomach ulcers, colitis, intestinal worms, constipation, bringing on menstruation, liver disease, and as a supportive treatment for people with HIV/Aids.
Bitter Melon does live up to at least some of its name, since it is extremely bitter, but this works well to counteract the sweetness in some Asian dishes where it is often seen stir fired with coconut milk, or steamed. Unfortunately, they don’t sell it where i live, so I am unable to provide you with a recipe that I have made personally, however here is one that I would try if I was able to get hold of a bitter melon:
Stir Fried Bitter Melon with Fermented Beans and Fish Sauce
Parts of this story have been reprinted from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research: