Email to Your Friends

The 7 Sweet Health Benefits Of Bitter Melon

The distinct flavor of the aptly named bitter melon can be an acquired taste. In fact, if you have always steered clear of this odd-looking vegetable or balked at the thought of eating something so bitter, you have plenty of company. Yet, this melon or gourd is so chock-full of nutritional goodness that it's a good idea to work it into your weekly menu plans.

A bitter melon is probably the last veggie you’d think of cooking for that weeknight dinner. But it is a taste well worth acquiring. This knobbly green vegetable, also called the bitter gourd or balsam pear, can be a great source of nutrients that do everything from building stronger bones to improving immunity, and possibly even protecting against cancer. Here’s a lowdown on all its goodness.

It Keeps Your Diabetes in Check

If you have a family history of diabetes or have already been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes mellitus, bitter melon can really help. The extract from bitter melon is believed to be structurally similar to animal insulin and can lower blood glucose levels in someone who has type 2 diabetes.1 In one study, patients who consumed 2000 mg of bitter melon daily saw levels of fructosamine drop significantly, alongside a “modest hypoglycemic effect.” What you must remember, though, is that bitter melon cannot be a substitute for medication you take.2

It Helps With Eye Health

Vitamin A is a nutrient your eyes love. Besides helping prevent the development of cataract or even night blindness, this vitamin promotes good eye health in general. It is needed for normal function of your cornea and conjunctival membranes. A typical serving of bitter melon gives you nearly a third of the vitamin A recommended for your body daily.3

It Builds Bone Strength And Prevents Osteoporosis

Bitter gourd contains high levels of vitamin K, a nutrient essential for building bone.4 Without it, all that calcium you consume (of which bitter melon is again a good source) will not be worth all that much, because it works in tandem with this vitamin to improve your bone density. You could easily ward off osteoporosis and osteoarthritis if you have enough of this vitamin, and even lower chances of having a fracture. So if you’d like to be a little less “breakable,” help yourself to a generous portion of bitter melon.5

It Loves Your Liver

Bitter melon is taken as “liver tonic” because of its ability to help digestion, purify blood, and detox your body. According to traditional Chinese medicine, bitter substances like bitter gourd can help remove any excess heat in your body, act as a natural detox, and restore balance.6 The vitamin K in bitter melon also cuts the risk of bleeding related to liver disease.7

What is attracting more followers to the vegetable is its role in lowering triglyceride levels in your liver. Animal studies on multiple varieties of bitter melon have found they all impact hepatic triglyceride levels to varying degrees.8

It’s An Ally In Your Fight Against Cancer

Bitter melon also offers hope to those with cancer. The various parts of bitter melon, from seed extracts to the pericarp and placenta, have been used in research against leukemia. These studies have found that the vegetable extracts have the potential to cause apoptosis or cell death of HL60 leukemia cells in humans.9

Studies exploring the impact of bitter melon extract treatment on breast cancer cells have found that the remedy reduces cell proliferation significantly. The extract also cause apoptotic cell death of these cancerous cells, making it a good alternative therapy to consider alongside medical treatment.10 Its effectiveness in stimulating apoptosis of pancreatic cancer cells is especially heartening, given the poor prognosis associated with this form of cancer.11

It Aids Weight Loss And Cuts Fat

Studies have found that bitter melon can cut the accumulation of tissue fat in your body.12 This is a result of bitter melon’s ability to stimulate the breakdown of lipids or fats, while also inhibiting fatty acid or triglyceride synthesis, making it a good choice for someone on a weight-loss plan. 13

If you are counting calories and trying to stay fit, there’s more. Because the bitter melon isn’t very calorific, you will be able to get in vitamins A, C, K, and minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium without consuming too many calories.14

It Builds Immunity

Bitter gourd also acts as an anti-inflammatory agent. The phenolic compounds gallic acid, catechin, and caffeic acid in bitter melon are powerful antioxidants, making a serving of the vegetable immensely beneficial for your immunity.15 For those with diabetes, animal studies indicate that it might even help normalize antioxidant status that is otherwise impaired.16 As one study found, the intake of this gourd can help induce systemic and intestinal anti-inflammatory responses.17

References   [ + ]

1. Basch, Ethan, Steven Gabardi, and Catherine Ulbricht. “Bitter melon (Momordica charantia): a review of efficacy and safety.” American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy 60, no. 4 (2003): 356-359.
2. Fuangchan, Anjana, Paveena Sonthisombat, Tippawadee Seubnukarn, Rapeepan Chanouan, Pontap Chotchaisuwat, Viruch Sirigulsatien, Kornkanok Ingkaninan, Pinyupa Plianbangchang, and Stuart T. Haines. “Hypoglycemic effect of bitter melon compared with metformin in newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes patients.” Journal of ethnopharmacology 134, no. 2 (2011): 422-428.
3. Vitamin A, NIH.
4, 14. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28, USDA.
5, 7. Vitamin K, University of Maryland Medical Center.
6. Weng, Weijian, and Junshi Chen. “The eastern perspective on functional foods based on traditional Chinese medicine.” Nutrition reviews 54, no. 11 (1996): S11.
8. Senanayake, Gamarallage VK, Mitsuru Maruyama, Kei Shibuya, Masanobu Sakono, Nobuhiro Fukuda, Toshiro Morishita, Chizuko Yukizaki, Mikio Kawano, and Hideaki Ohta. “The effects of bitter melon (Momordica charantia) on serum and liver triglyceride levels in rats.” Journal of ethnopharmacology 91, no. 2 (2004): 257-262.
9. Kobori, Masuko, Mayumi Ohnishi-Kameyama, Yukari Akimoto, Chizuko Yukizaki, and Mitsuru Yoshida. “α-Eleostearic acid and its dihydroxy derivative are major apoptosis-inducing components of bitter gourd.” Journal of Agricultural and food chemistry 56, no. 22 (2008): 10515-10520.
10. Ray, Ratna B., Amit Raychoudhuri, Robert Steele, and Pratibha Nerurkar. “Bitter melon (Momordica charantia) extract inhibits breast cancer cell proliferation by modulating cell cycle regulatory genes and promotes apoptosis.” Cancer Research 70, no. 5 (2010): 1925-1931.
11. Kaur, Manjinder, Gagan Deep, Anil K. Jain, Komal Raina, Chapla Agarwal, Michael F. Wempe, and Rajesh Agarwal. “Bitter melon juice activates cellular energy sensor AMP-activated protein kinase causing apoptotic death of human pancreatic carcinoma cells.” Carcinogenesis (2013): bgt081.
12. Chen, Qixuan, and Edmund TS Li. “Reduced adiposity in bitter melon (Momordica charantia) fed rats is associated with lower tissue triglyceride and higher plasma catecholamines.” British Journal of Nutrition 93, no. 05 (2005): 747-754.
13. Nerurkar, Pratibha V., Yun-Kung Lee, and Vivek R. Nerurkar. “Momordica charantia (bitter melon) inhibits primary human adipocyte differentiation by modulating adipogenic genes.” BMC complementary and alternative medicine 10, no. 1 (2010): 34.
15. Kubola, Jittawan, and Sirithon Siriamornpun. “Phenolic contents and antioxidant activities of bitter gourd (Momordica charantia L.) leaf, stem and fruit fraction extracts in vitro.” Food chemistry 110, no. 4 (2008): 881-890.
16. Sathishsekar, Dhanasekar, and Sorimuthu Subramanian. “Antioxidant properties of Momordica Charantia (bitter gourd) seeds on Streptozotocin induced diabetic rats.” Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition 14, no. 2 (2005): 153.
17. Manabe, Mariko, Ryo Takenaka, Teruko Nakasa, and Osamu Okinaka. “Induction of anti-inflammatory responses by dietary Momordica charantia L.(bitter gourd).” Bioscience, biotechnology, and biochemistry 67, no. 12 (2003): 2512-2517.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.