When you think of melon, you probably think of long summer days spent on the beach or porch chewing on sweet, crisp fruit.
However, if you’re from the Caribbean or Asia, bitter melon may also come to mind.
The strange fruit may look like a lumpy cucumber or a sad gourd, but it’s one of the healthiest foods on the planet.
- Upset stomach
- Intestinal worms
It can also be used for kidney stones, fever, psoriasis, liver disease, menstrual pain and as a supportive treatment for HIV/AIDS.
Studies show that compounds found in bitter melon mimic insulin. They lower blood sugar by promoting the transportation of glucose into cells and the storage of energy in the liver and muscles. The fruit improves insulin sensitivity, glucose tolerance and insulin signaling and can even help support weight loss (2).
Use In Cancer Patients
Surprisingly, the same actions that make the melon suitable for diabetics help kill cancer cells.
University of Colorado Cancer Center found that bitter melon stops pancreatic cancer cells from metabolizing glucose. This works because cancer cells need sugar to survive. Daily consumption of bitter melon juice was found to reduce pancreatic cancer risk by 60%. (3)
Bitter melon also displays cytotoxic activity. It contains a ribosome inhibiting protein (RIP) that induces apoptosis in prostate cancer cells (4). It also prevents the spread of cancer.In fact, mice fed bitter melon extract had a 51% reduction of cancer proliferation (5).
And these studies aren’t alone, the NIH reports that several groups of investigators have reported that treatment of bitter-melon-related products in a number of cancer cell lines induces cell cycle arrest and apoptosis without affecting normal cell growth (6).
Ratna Ray, Ph.D., professor of pathology at SLU hopes to continue to investigate the use of bitter melon for cancer treatment (11). Who knows, perhaps in a few years cancer patients will be given juicers instead of chemotherapy.
How To Use Bitter Melon
Healthy adults should not exceed two ounces of bitter melon a day. Larger quantities will cause abdominal pain and diarrhea (12). Children under 18, pregnant women and people taking insulin or hypoglycemic medication should not use bitter melon unless under strict medical supervision (12).