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Although unknown in the West, bitter melon has a long history of being used in the East. The fruit has been used in folk medicine to treat high blood pressure, stomach cramps, hemorrhoids, fever, glaucoma, skin infections, high cholesterol and other conditions. Bitter melon is rich in alkaloids, glycoside, peptides, acids, cucurbins, charantin, cucurbitacins, momordine, momorcharins and protein.

Charantin, cucurbitanoids, momordicin and oleanolic acids are considered the main compounds responsible for the fruit’s hypoglycemic properties. According to resent studies, bitter melon is a viable hypoglycemia and cancer cure.

Bitter melon and diabetes

Scientists from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica have discovered that the fruit is indeed a potential cure for diabetes. Bitter melon contains chemical compounds which activate AMPK that stimulates movement of the glucose receptors to the surface of cells. “More transporters on cells’ surfaces increase the uptake of glucose from circulation in the blood into tissues of the body, such as muscle, thus lowering blood sugar levels,” a report of the study said. According to a study published in the journal of Ethnopharmacology, “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.

Bitter melon and breast cancer

According to another study from the University of Saint Louis, bitter melon extract can trigger a chain of events on a cellular level that can stop breast cancer cells from proliferation. The lead scientist on the study concluded that “bitter melon extract modulates several signal transduction pathways, which induces breast cancer cell death. This extract can be utilized as a dietary supplement for the prevention of breast cancer.”

The fruit can be eaten raw or added to smoothies. You can also find bitter melon supplements in almost all health stores.