Melons…people either love them or hate them. They come in four different varieties: benincasa, citrullus, cucumis, and momordica. (1) Interestingly, some varieties are considered a vegetable rather than a fruit. The melon I know are honeydew and cantaloupes, which belong to the cucumis species.
Another type of melon, called the bitter melon, also known as bitter gourd, belongs to the momordica species. It’s a vegetable-fruit that has been used as food and medicine. It grows abundantly in the subtropical regions of South America, Asia, the Caribbean, and certain parts of Africa. (2)
This oblong-shaped vegetable/fruit has a warty exterior with a distinctly bitter taste and is rich in vitamins and minerals. Scientific evidence has also shown that this food effectively fights cancerous tumors. (3)
Pancreatic cancer was inhibited by 60% in treatment groups
Insulin encourages pancreatic cancer cells to grow and it has been discovered that bitter melons can regulate insulin levels to prevent pancreatic cancer over the long-term. A study led by Dr. Rajesh Agarwal at Colorado University evaluated four different lines of pancreatic cancer and the effects of bitter melons in mice. (3,4)
In this study, mice were injected with pancreatic tumor cells and were randomly selected into treatment and control groups. The treatment group received bitter melon for six weeks, while the control group received water. At the end of the study, the results showed that bitter melon juice did not only inhibit cancer cell proliferation, but also induced apoptosis [cancer cell death]. (3,4)
Pancreatic tumor growth was inhibited by 60% in the treatment group and there were no signs of toxicity or side effects on the body! (3,4)
Number of studies show success in treating diabetes
Pancreatic cancer typically appears after a person has diabetes for some time, so several researchers wondered if bitter melon could treat diabetes as well.
In the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, researchers concluded that, “Bitter melon had a modest hypoglycemic effect and significantly reduced fructosamine levels from the baseline among patients with type-2 diabetes who received 2,000 mg/day. However, the hypoglycemic effect of bitter melon was less than metformin at 1,000 mg/day.”(3,5)
In previous study, researchers discovered that compounds in bitter melon improved glycemic control, helped cells uptake glucose, and improved overall glucose tolerance. This study led to promising advancements in treating diabetes and obesity. (3,6)
Other health benefits
Bitter melon has been used in traditional medicine to treat colic, fever, burns, chronic cough, painful menstruation, skin conditions, to heal wounds, assist in childbirth, kill breast cancer cells, and in certain parts of the world to treat malaria and viral diseases. (2)
I have never seen or even heard of this type of vegetable-fruit, but now I think I will set out to find one. I curious about the taste, and the benefit it provides appears to be promising!
Image source: flic.kr