Scientists have uncovered the therapeutic properties of bitter melon, a vegetable and traditional Chinese medicine, that make it a powerful treatment for Type 2 diabetes.
Teams from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica pulped roughly a tonne of fresh bitter melon and extracted four very promising bioactive components. These four compounds all appear to activate the enzyme AMPK, a protein well known for regulating fuel metabolism and enabling glucose uptake.
“We can now understand at a molecular level why bitter melon works as a treatment for diabetes,” said Professor David James, Director of the Diabetes and Obesity Program at Garvan. “By isolating the compounds we believe to be therapeutic, we can investigate how they work together in our cells.”
People with Type 2 diabetes have an impaired ability to convert the sugar in their blood into energy in their muscles. This is partly because they don’t produce enough insulin, and partly because their fat and muscle cells don’t use insulin effectively, a phenomenon known as ‘insulin resistance’.