ScienceDaily (Feb. 23, 2010) — Bitter melon extract, a common dietary supplement, exerts a significant effect against breast cancer cell growth and may eventually become a chemopreventive agent against this form of cancer, according to results of a recent study.
"Our findings suggest that bitter melon extract modulates several signal transduction pathways, which induces breast cancer cell death," said lead researcher Ratna B. Ray, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Pathology at Saint Louis University. "This extract can be utilized as a dietary supplement for the prevention of breast cancer."
"When we used the extract from that melon, we saw that it kills the breast cancer cells," said lead researcher Ratna Ray, a professor of pathology at Saint Louis University. But their work was done in a laboratory, not in humans, she noted. The bitter melon extract killed only the cancer cells, not the healthy breast cells. "We didn't see any death in the normal cells," she said.
However, these results are not proof that bitter melon extract prevents or cures breast cancer. Previous research has shown Momordica charantia, also known as bitter melon, to have hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic effects, according to Ray. Because of these effects, the extract is commonly used in folk medicines as a remedy for diabetes in locales such as India, China and Central America, according to the researchers [see below].
Using human breast cancer cells and primary human mammary epithelial cells in vitro, Ray and colleagues found the mechanism of bitter melon extract significantly decreased proliferation, that is, cell growth and division, and induced death in breast cancer cells. These early results offer an encouraging path for research into breast cancer.
"Breast cancer is a major killer among women around the world, and in that perspective, results from this study are quite significant," said Rajesh Agarwal, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Colorado, Denver School of Pharmacy. "This study may provide us with one more agent as an extract that could be used against breast cancer if additional studies hold true."
Bitter melon extract is cultivated in Asia, Africa and South America. Extract of this vegetable is being popularized as a dietary supplement in Western Countries, since it is known to contain additional glycosides such as mormordin, vitamin C, carotenoids, flavanoids and polyphenols.
Bitter Melon: Why A Simple Fruit Extract Could Be Set To Replace
Conventional Drugs For Treating Diabetes
When HSI Panellist, Paula Bartimeus, first told us about Bitter Melon (Karela) - hailed as a potential breakthrough in the treatment of chronic diseases such as diabetes, HIV/AIDs and even cancer - we found it hard to believe that a simple fruit could exert such far-reaching health benefits.
However, the mounting research into bitter melon's unique therapeutic properties appears to be yet another testament to the advantages of certain natural therapies over many conventional drugs. In India, for example, doctors are so confident about the anti-diabetic effect of bitter melon that it is often dispensed in hospitals to people suffering from diabetes in place of medication.
Conventional drugs are often limited to treating just one specific condition, whereas natural remedies - because of the complex array of biochemicals, vitamins and minerals they contain - are remarkably versatile and able to provide relief for a wide range of unrelated conditions. In bitter melon, for example, there are 32 active ingredients - which are thought to aid recovery from viral infections, improve digestion and stimulate poor appetite too.
Unripe fruit extract responsible for bitter melon's potent health-giving properties
The bitter melon plant (Momordica charantia) can be found growing in tropical locations such as East Africa, Asia, The Caribbean and South America - where its fruit is used both as a medicine and a food. Bitter melon is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family - a relative of squash, watermelon and cucumber - and as the name suggests, it tastes bitter.
Also known as balsam pear, bitter melon is cucumber shaped with a pebbly surface. As it begins to mature, its surface colour turns from light green to yellow or orange. However, it is the extract from the unripe fruit that provides the plant with its therapeutic properties.
At least 32 active constituents have been identified in bitter melon so far, including beta-sitosterol-d-glucoside, citrulline, GABA, lutein, lycopene and zeaxanthin. Nutritional analysis reveals that bitter melon is also rich in potassium, calcium, iron, beta-carotene, vitamins B1, B2, B3 and C.
Even more effective than a conventional drug in lowering blood sugar!
Recently, the Department of Health in the Philippines has recommended bitter melon as one of the best herbal medicines for diabetic management. And multiple clinical studies have clearly established the role of bitter melon in people with diabetes.1 Scientists have now identified three groups of constituents that are thought to be responsible for its 'blood sugar lowering' action.
One of these, a compound called charantin, which is composed of mixed steroids, was found to be more effective than the oral hypoglycaemic drug, tolbutamide, in reducing blood sugar.
Another, an insulin-like polypeptide, called polypeptide P, appears to lower blood sugar in type I (insulin dependent) diabetics, while alkaloids present in the fruit have also been noted to have a blood sugar lowering effect. As yet, researchers are unclear as to which of these compounds is most effective or if it is the synergistic effect of all three. Further research is required to understand how these compounds actually work.
Compounds known as oleanolic acid glycosides have been found to improve glucose tolerance in Type II (maturity onset) diabetics by preventing the absorption of sugar from the intestines. Bitter melon has also been reported to increase the number of beta cells (cells that secrete insulin) in the pancreas, thereby improving your body's capability to produce insulin (insulin promotes the uptake of sugar from your blood by cells and tissues).
In one study, glucose tolerance was improved in 73 per cent of type II diabetics given 2oz of bitter melon juice. 2 In another study, 15 grams of the aqueous extract of bitter melon produced a 54 per cent decrease in post-prandial (occurring after eating) blood sugar in six patients. 3
A natural therapy for the management of AIDs and HIV?
In the USA and Asia there has been much interest in bitter melon for its use as an alternative therapy for AIDs. A protein called MAP 30 isolated from the fruit is a potent inhibitor of HIV activity. Professor Sylvia Lee-Huang and researchers at the New York University School of Medicine reported that MAP 30 protein is able to slow down HIV-1 infection in T-lymphocytes and monocytes (white blood cells) as well as replication of HIV-1 in infected cells. 4
And, unlike many other alternative anti-HIV treatments, the compound has been shown to be non-toxic to uninfected cells. Although research is very much in its early stages, two other proteins present in the seeds of the bitter melon, alpha- and beta-momorcharin, have also been found to inhibit the AIDs virus. 5
Bitter melon may prove to have general anti-viral properties too. A seed extract has been shown to deter herpes virus-1 in human cells. 6 While anti-cancer properties are present in a crude extract of the fruit. 4
How to take bitter melon for maximum results
Due to its bitter taste, you may prefer to take bitter melon in tincture or capsule form. The suggested dose for bitter melon tincture is approximately 5ml - two to three times a day. The dosage for capsules will depend on the strength of the product, and may vary from brand to brand - always follow instructions on the product's label. Or 1 tablespoon a day of Karela Juice
1. Raman A, Lau C. Anti-diabetic properties and phytochemistry of Momordica charantia L (Curcurbitaceae). Phytomed 1996;2:349
2. Welihinda J et al. Effect of Momardica charantia on the glucose tolerance in maturity onset diabetes. J Ethnopharmacol 1986;17:277-282.
3. Srivastava Y, et al. Anti-diabetic and adaptogenic properties of Momordica charantia extract: An experimental and clinical evaluation. Phytother Res 1993;7:285-289.
4. Lee-Huang, S. et al. Anti-HIV and anti-tumour activities of recombinant MAP 30 from bitter melon. Gene 1995;161:151-56.
5. Zhang QC. Preliminary report on the use of Momordica charantia extract by HIV patients.
Bitter Melon Extract May
Slow, Stop Breast Cancer
Bitter Melon Produces Sweet
Results For Diabetes
AmerMed: Bitter Melon Extract 600mg, 120 Capsules
Bitter Melon, also known as Karela or Momordica Charantia is a herb that helps regulate blood sugar levels and keeps body functions operating normally. It contains Gurmarin, a polypeptide considered to be similar to bovine insulin, which has been shown in experimental studies to achieve a positive sugar regulating effect by suppressing the neural response to sweet taste stimuli. Karela's principle constituents are lectins, charantin and momordicine. The fruits have long been used in India as a folk remedy for diabetes mellitus. Lectins from the bitter gourd have shown significant antilipolytic and lipogenic activities. To Support and Promote: Healthy Sugar Levels Proper Glucose Tolerance Natural Insulin Production
Bitter Melon for Diabetes
By: Dr. Loretta Lanphier, ND, CN, HHP, CH
Bitter melon is one of those natural foods and herbal remedies that are really fun to learn about. Also known as Karela, it is very useful for many health applications. It is used in some cultures as a food source, and researchers have only begun to fully understand how and why it is so beneficial. All of these factors make bitter melon a wonderful gift from our Creator. Its positive effects on treating and preventing diabetes is probably the most well-known benefit of bitter melon, but, as with most natural substances, new uses are cropping up all the time as we begin to understand better the ins and outs of the interplay between its various components.
The bitter melon plant (momordica charantia) has a long history of use in Eastern cultures, and its virtues have become more popular worldwide in recent decades. Also known as bitter gourd or balsam pear, this vegetable was originally native to Asia and today grows wild or is cultivated in tropical regions around the globe. It is similar in appearance to a cucumber with a bumpy skin, has a bitter taste as the name indicates, and most of its medicinal value is concentrated in the extract of the unripe fruit, interestingly enough. In a Chinese medical book from the 16th century, bitter melon is described as “bitter in taste, non-toxic, expelling evil heat, relieving fatigue, and illuminating.” Supplemental forms of bitter melon capitalize on its qualities that have been known in traditional medicine for many years.
Bitter Melon and Diabetes
Diabetes is growing at epidemic rates throughout the West and around the world, with 50 million cases currently worldwide, and that number projected to reach 300 million by 2025. Big Pharma has jumped on this crisis and developed drugs that help manage insulin and regulate blood sugar. However, the catch is that they have potentially hazardous side effects including buildup of fluids, weight gain, and heart failure.
The exciting thing about bitter melon is that it functions to counteract diabetes in similar ways to these drugs, but without any known side effects. Researchers have identified at least four distinct components of bitter melon that stimulate an enzyme called AMPK, which is a protein that plays a key role in the progressing of fuel in the body, especially glucose. The action of bitter melon on AMPK is just like that of physical exercise on the body. For diabetics, or to prevent diabetes, taking a bitter melon supplement along with exercising is a powerful one-two punch.
Bitter melon is effective on both type 1 (insulin dependant) and type 2 (maturity onset) diabetes. Certain compounds in bitter melon help lower and maintain proper levels of blood sugar in the body. Of particular benefit to type 2 diabetes, bitter melon also reduces a phenomenon known as insulin resistance by which diabetics cannot properly absorb and use insulin. Even beyond that, scientists studying the effects of bitter melon have discovered that it can actually increase the number of cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, thereby helping the body to naturally help itself.
Not only do components of the Bitter Melon plant act to lower blood sugar levels in diabetes, but they also have beneficial effects on conditions associated with this disease. These include prevention of the development of diabetes-related cataracts, a result that has been demonstrated in preliminary studies thus far in humans and mice. Reductions in diabetes-related nerve damage (neuropathy) and also stomach conditions (gastropathy) have been demonstrated in experimental rats fed Bitter Melon as well.(1)
Bitter melon is an excellent example of a natural substance that has numerous bioactive components that work together synergistically to produce health benefits that could not occur if the ingredients were isolated. (This is why consuming organic fruits and vegetables, especially if raw, is better for us than just drinking the juice, for example.) To date, about 32 different components of bitter melon have been identified that have various bioactive properties. Some are unique to bitter melon, but others that you probably recognize include lycopene, vitamins B and C, beta-carotene, potassium, calcium, and iron.
Other Uses for Bitter Melon
Bitter melon has been used over the centuries for many health applications. It has proven itself beneficial as a preventative measure and a treatment for digestive disorders, respiratory ailments such as bronchitis and asthma, and diarrhea, to name a few.
Weight loss. In India, Bitter Melon has traditionally been used as a weight-loss aid. A number of studies Bitter Melon fruit and/or seeds have been shown to reduce blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, both in the presence and absence of dietary fats. University of Hong King researchers have demonstrated that Bitter Melon reduces adiposity (the ability to store fat or create adipose tissue) in rats fed a high-fat diet. The Bitter Melon powder used in this study did not work by blocking fat absorption within the gastrointestinal tract; rather it appeared to regulate fat metabolism within the rat’s tissues.
Cancer. A phytochemical isolated from Bitter Melon has clinically demonstrated the ability to inhibit an enzyme, guanylate cyclase, that is thought to be linked to the pathogenesis of cancer. MAP30, a Bitter Melon derivative, also inhibits prostate tumor growth.
Herpes/AIDS. Bitter melon is also a versatile anti-viral substance, with experiments studying its effectiveness on the herpes-1 virus being very promising. One of the most exciting areas of research regarding bitter melon has been about using it to fight HIV/AIDS. The protein MAP 30 inhibits new growth of the HIV virus in white blood cells, and slows down the duplication of the virus in infected cells as well. Perhaps the potential of bitter melon as a wellness tool is far greater than we even know at this point in time.
Bitter Melon Contraindications(2)
If taken in capsules, power or liquid form, I highly suggest being monitored by a qualified healthcare practitioner. Bitter Melon may have additive effects when taken with other drugs whose action is to lower blood glucose levels. Bitter Melon should never be taken in combination with these therapies, especially in addition to insulin. Since the fruit and seed of Bitter Melon have proven to be effective in lowering blood cholesterol levels in animal studies, those taking medication to lower blood cholesterol should avoid using Bitter Melon. It has been used to promote uterine contractions so its use should be avoided during pregnancy. Nursing mothers should also avoid using Bitter Melon both as a food and as an herbal remedy. Avoid Bitter Melon if one has a known allergy or an allergy to any member of the Curcurbitaceae plant families.
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