Monday, October 4, 2010

Bitter Gourd for Treating Type 2 Diabetes

One of the most popular treatments for type 2 diabetes in both Indian and Chinese herbal medicine is bitter gourd. Cooked into stews (usually with fish balls or pork in Chinese cuisine), squeezed for juice, or eaten as a cooked vegetable, bitter gourd is used by millions of diabetics as a primary treatment. It's not unusual to see entire yards and gardens devoted to raising the bumpy, elongated, summer vegetable in Chinese and Indian neighborhoods.

Does bitter gourd really work for type 2 diabetes? You'll have to measure your own blood sugar levels to know for sure, but there is laboratory evidence that bitter melon stimulates insulin production while increasing the mass of beta cells in the pancreas. Unlike other insulin-stimulating drugs that "burn out" the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas, bitter melon seems to repair it.

There is also some recent evidence that bitter melon could act as a kind of anti-Actos or anti-Avandia. These popular and potentially deadly prescription medications act in part by encouraging the transformation of stem cells into fat cells. Bitter melon has the opposite effect, blocking the transformation of stem cells into fat cells.

Most type 2 diabetics will find some value in adding bitter melon to the diet, although it's definitely an acquired taste. The term "bitter" isn't in the name for nothing. However, this healing food is properly more useful for weight control than for blood sugar control--which is why so many type 2 diabetics use it!

Selected Reference:

Nerurkar PV, Lee YK, Nerurkar VR. Momordica charantia (bitter melon) inhibits primary human adipocyte differentiation by modulating adipogenic genes. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2010 Jun 29;10:34.

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