Bitter Melon (aka Karela): Blood Glucose Control

Look ugly, taste worse

I take a lot of supplements, some for general health and others to improve me blood glucose levels. One supplement I’ve had some success with is bitter melon which is also known as karela or bitter gourd.

There are a lot of lists out there touting all kinds of benefits that come with eating bitter melon. I’m going to stick with blood glucose management in this post.

Now I say this is a supplement because it is rather difficult to get the fruit here in the UK. I’ve had limited success getting it delivered online. Unless you live in a reasonably large city with a Chinese, Indian or Pakistani community, you’re going to have trouble finding this as a fresh fruit. I can’t speak for North America, but I’m guessing the same rule applies.

Bitter melon has been used in the Far East for ages to treat diabetes. Scientific research demonstrates that the fruit has some properties that help control blood glucose levels. In particular, polypeptide-p, charantin, and vicine all have positive effects on blood glucose levels.

Polypeptide-p seems to function as an insulin mimetic (mimic). Charantin and vicine also act as hypoglycaemic agents but it is not wholly clear how or why this occurs. One study argues that bitter melon is acting on several levels within the body to lower blood glucose:

Different mechanisms contribute to the antidiabetic activities of M. charantia [bitter melon], these include increasing pancreatic insulin secretion, decreasing insulin resistance and increasing peripheral and skeletal muscle cell glucose utilization, inhibition of intestinal glucose absorption and suppressing of key enzymes in the gluconeogenic pathways.

The studies linked above also suggest that bitter melon may repair beta-cells or help the pancreas create more. Now that’s exciting.

It’s near impossible to get bitter melon fresh where I live. This is a shame because when I have had it fresh, I’ve enjoyed a considerable drop in blood glucose levels. I tried taking it as a juice, but I did not experience the same hypoglycaemic effects, and I was not impressed with the quality of the long-last juices coming from India. They are also exorbitantly expensive. I’ve had to settle with tablets. There is still a slight hypoglycaemic effect.

Conclusion

Bitter melon does appear to have proven hypoglycaemic effects when eaten fresh or juiced. Long-last juice which has been pasteurised did not have a significant effect on my blood glucose. I have settled on supplements on tablet form which, when combined with my metformin and other supplements, has a marginal but not inconsequential effect on my blood glucose. Since I’m now growing more and more of my own vegetables, I’m going to buy some karela seeds and try growing them in my sun room. I hope to have something to report in the next couple of months on the effects of fresh bitter melon.

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