Momordica charantia, commonly known as bitter melon or bitter gourd, has a long history of use as a culinary staple and a hypoglycemic agent in Southeast Asia. There is a plethora of botanical varieties recognized by native peoples, who differentiate between those good for eating and those good for medicine.
Animal studies consistently find blood-sugar regulating effects associated with certain varieties of bitter melon, including improvements in glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, especially when using freshly juiced or freshly extracted material. Despite significant investigation, the suite of important constituents responsible for the effects of bitter melon is poorly characterized. In fact, it is often found that creating extracts of bitter melon leads to a decrease in native activity.
A critical review of bitter melon research indicates that not only are some varieties preferred to others, but also that preparation methods play a significant role in overall activity and can explain large variations in reported dosing protocols. Neither the charantin nor the bitters components of bitter melon in published work have proven sufficient to explain the various benefits of fresh and freshly extracted bitter melon. Not everything labeled “bitter melon extract” is created equal.
Science & References
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- Chaturvedi P and George S. Momordica charantia maintains normal glucose levels and lipid profiles and prevents oxidative stress in diabetic rats subjected to chronic sucrose load. J Med Food. 2010 Jun;13(3):520-7.
- Chuang CY, Hsu C, Chao CY, et al. Fractionation and identification of 9c, 11t, 13t-conjugated linolenic acid as an activator of PPARalpha in bitter gourd (Momordica charantia L.). J Biomed Sci. 2006 Nov;13(6):763-72.
- Clouatre DL, Rao SN, Preuss HG. Bitter Melon Extracts in Diabetic and Normal Rats Favorably Influence Blood Glucose and Blood Pressure Regulation. J Med Food. 2011 Dec;14(12):1496-504.
- Donya A, Hettiarachchy N, Liyanage R, et al. Effects of processing methods on the proximate composition and momordicosides K and L content of bitter melon vegetable. J Agric Food Chem. 2007 Jul 11;55(14):5827-33.
- Fernandes NP, et al. An experimental evaluation of the antidiabetic and antilipidemic properties of a standardized Momordica charantia fruit extract. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2007 Sep 24;7:29.
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- Krawinkel MB, Keding GB. Bitter gourd (Momordica Charantia): A dietary approach to hyperglycemia. Nutr Rev. 2006 Jul;64(7 Pt 1):331-7.
- Leung L, et al. Anti-diabetic and hypoglycaemic effects of Momordica charantia (bitter melon): a mini review. Br J Nutr. 2009 Dec;102(12):1703-8.
- Li QY, Chen HB, Liu ZM, et al. Cucurbitane triterpenoids from Momordica charantia. Magn Reson Chem. 2007 Jun;45(6):451-6.
- Oishi Y, Sakamoto T, Udagawa H, et al. Inhibition of increases in blood glucose and serum neutral fat by Momordica charantia saponin fraction. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2007 Mar;71(3):735-40.
- Ojewole JA, Adewole SO, Olayiwola G. Hypoglycaemic and hypotensive effects of Momordica charantia Linn (Cucurbitaceae) whole-plant aqueous extract in rats. Cardiovasc J S Afr. 2006 Sep-Oct;17(5):227-32.
- Shih CC, Lin CH, Lin WL. Effects of Momordica charantia on insulin resistance and visceral obesity in mice on high-fat diet. Diabetes Res Clin Pract 2008;81:134-43.
- Tan MJ, Ye JM, Turner N, et al. Antidiabetic activities of triterpenoids isolated from bitter melon associated with activation of the AMPK pathway. Chem Biol. 2008 Mar;15(3):263-73.