Bitter melon, also known as bitter gourd or karela (in India), is a unique vegetable-fruit that can be used as food or medicine.
The bitter melon itself grows off the vine as a green, oblong-shaped fruit with a distinct warty exterior – though its size, texture and bitterness vary between the different regions in which it grows – and is rich in vital vitamins and minerals.
How does it affect diabetes?
In addition to being a food ingredient, bitter melon has also long been used as a herbal remedy for a range of ailments, including type 2 diabetes.
The fruit contains at least three active substances with anti-diabetic properties, including charantin, which has been confirmed to have a blood glucose-lowering effect, vi-cine and an insulin-like compound known as polypeptide-p.
These substances either work individually or together to help reduce blood sugar levels.
It is also known that bitter melon contains a lectin that reduces blood glucose concentrations by acting on peripheral tissues and suppressing appetite – similar to the effects of insulin in the brain.
This lectin is thought to be a major factor behind the hypoglycemic effect that develops after eating bitter melon.