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Bitter melon promises solution to cancer, stress


Scientists, in a new study, have said that bitter melon juice may help to prevent the development of pancreatic cancer by cutting off the fuel supply to cancerous cells.

In a study performed in mouse models and on human cells in the laboratory, they found that bitter melon juice restricts the ability of pancreatic cancer cells to break down glucose, therefore cutting off the cells’ energy supply and eventually killing the cancer.

Writing in the journal Carcinogenesis, the researchers said their results demonstrate that bitter melon juice, rather than an extract offer ‘exciting’ cancer promise.

Momordica charantia is commonly called Bitter melon, African Cucumber or Bitter gourd.  In Nigeria, bitter melon is called daddagu in Hausa; iliahia in Igala; akban ndene in Igbo (Ibuzo in Delta State); or akara aj, ejinrin nla, ejinrin weeri, ejirin-weewe or igbole aja in Yoruba. It looks like a hideous, light green cucumber and it tastes very bitter. There are two varieties of this vegetable.

Apart from being eaten mainly as vegetable, it is particularly reputed as a folk medicine due to its therapeutic properties. Aside this, it has numerous vital vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin C, Iron, Calcium, Phosphorous, Copper and Potassium.

Previously, researchers indicated that daily consumption of an antioxidant-rich melon extract may lower cholesterol levels and prevent hardening of the arteries.

According to findings published in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, they stated that consumption of the commercially-available extract Extramel, in combination with a high-fat diet was associated with a reduction in levels of bad cholesterol, compared to animals fed only the high-fat diet.

The study was carried out in 60 hamsters. They were divided into five groups. One group consumed a standard diet, while the other four consumed a high-fat diet supplemented with one of four doses of Extramel – 0, 0.7, 2.8, or 5.6 mg per day. Hamsters were used because their development of atherosclerosis is similar to humans.

After 12 weeks, the highest dose of the melon-extract was associated with a 48 per cent reduction in total plasma cholesterol, and a 53 per cent reduction in non-HDL cholesterol, compared to the high-fat diet only group.

Previously, researchers stated in the journal Nutrition that a daily intake of bitter melon because of its antioxidant content may ease stress and fatigue.

In addition, daily consumption of an antioxidant-rich melon extract also prevents obesity. According to a finding published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the bitter melon extract prevent obesity in high-fat fed hamsters. It decreased body weight, abdominal fat and cholesterol. It stimulated liver for secretion of bile juices that are very essential for metabolism of fats.

The bitter gourd is particularly used as a remedy for diabetes because of its blood sugar lowering action. It contains insulin-like peptides, alkaloids and charantin, all of which act together to lower blood and urine sugar levels without increasing blood insulin levels.

In January 2011, the results of a four-week clinical trial were published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, which showed that a 2,000 mg daily dose of bitter melon significantly reduced  blood glucose levels among patients with type 2 diabetes, although the hypoglycaemic effect was less than a 1,000 mg/day dose of metformin.

In folkloric medicine, its juice is used in the treatment of blood disorders like blood boils and itching due to blood poisoning because of its blood-purifying properties.

A glass of bitter gourd juice in the morning can help to strengthen the immune system and increase the body’s fighting power against infection. Researchers hypothesize that bitter melon is as an immunomodulator. One clinical trial found limited evidence that bitter melon might improve immune cell function in people with cancer.

 Bitter melon for high blood pressure can also be used effectively as they are rich in an amino acid known as citrulline that helps increase the nitric oxide and vitamin C. This can quickly get rid of the active oxygen, enabling the nitric oxide to remain longer in the blood vessels.

In addition, researchers from Saint Louis University in the US said they have shown that an extract from bitter melon can kill breast cancer cells and prevent them from growing and spreading.

Bitter melon is used as a folk medicine in Togo to treat gastrointestinal diseases, and extracts have shown activity in vitro against the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans. In Togo, the plant is traditionally used against viral diseases such as chickenpox and measles.

According to a study published in British Journal of Pharmacology, bitter melon may offer alternative dietary strategies to decrease opportunistic infections and improve quality of life in People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHA).

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