Momordica charantia (bitter melon) fruit extract (MCE) has been used in India for a long time and has been shown to have a hypoglycemic effect in diabetes mellitus. The fruits, stems and leaves are all effective. Bitter melon contains the chemicals charantin (a steroid glycoside), vicine and polypeptide ‘p.’
The present study was done to see the effects on diabetes in rats with better standardized MCE extracts. Diabetes was induced in the rats chemically by alloxan. MCE was given to the rats at various doses for 30 days. The doses of MCE used were 150, 300 and 600 mg/kg. Control rats were used.
Blood tests were done, including glucose, serum insulin, cholesterol, triglycerides, proteins and liver glycogen. Old obese rats were tested for the ability of CME to lower lipid levels.
All forms of diabetes are known to be caused by insulin deficiency, whether resulting from decreased production of insulin or by insulin resistance. High blood sugar is the most common sign of diabetes. High triglycerides and high cholesterol are often seen in patients with diabetes.
The results of the study were that MCE reduced blood sugar elevations in rats that received glucose. 300 mg/kg seemed to be the best dose for the rats. CME was shown to return the following abnormal chemistries toward normal: blood glucose, serum insulin, total protein, liver glycogen and serum lipids. Glucose tolerance curves were improved by MCE.
Testing showed that MCE worked by enhancing insulin secretion in the pancreatic islets of Langerhans, reduced glycogenesis in the liver, improved the utilization of glucose and increased blood protein levels. MCE may even regenerate the pancreatic islets which produce insulin. Old rats treated with bitter melon showed improvements in serum cholesterol, lowering of triglycerides and elevations of HDL-cholesterol. The effect of MCE was similar to that of glibenclamide, a commonly used antidiabetic drug.
CONCLUSION: MCE demonstrated antidiabetic activity and, even in old obese rats, lowered cholesterol, lowered triglycerides and increased HDL-cholesterol. MCE seems to be beneficial in diabetes as well as in the complications of diabetes.
NOTE: Glycogenesis is the process by which glucose molecules are formed into chains for storage in the liver. Glycogen is the form in which energy is stored in the liver.
Read about attempts to remove the bitterness of bitter melon.