The existing drugs for diabetes have been accused of their side effects and limited action. This has therefore prompted for searching of alternatives to treat diabetes.
Bitter melon, also known as balsam pear, is a plant eaten and used medicinally in many parts of Asia. In a recent study, it was found that substances from bitter melon could provide the basis of new drugs for treating diabetes and obesity. As we know, diabetes and obesity are two of the risk factors for heart disease.
The researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai reported in the Journal Chemistry and Biology that bitter melon has shown to reduce blood sugar in animal and human studies.
In the current study, the researchers isolated and described several compounds from bitter melon known as cucurbitanetriterpenoids , and tested their effects on glucose (sugar) and fat metabolism in cells and in mice.
When tested in muscle and fat cells, the compounds stimulated the glucose receptor GLUT4 to move from the cell interior to the cell surface, thus promoting more effective glucose metabolism. Several of the tested compounds had effects comparable to those of insulin.
When tested in mice, two of the compounds promoted both glucose tolerance and fat burning, and one was particularly effective in promoting glucose tolerance in animals consuming high fat diets.
As revealed in the study, there may be as many as 70 active compounds in bitter melon. The researchers concluded that the present study provided an important basis for further analysis of structure-activity relationship to develop optimized leads from bitter melon for the treatment of insulin resistance and obesity.