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Where Can I Buy Bitter Melon Fruit

Bitter melon actually doesn't look like a melon at all, although it is a distant cousin. This plant grows as a small, round fruit and is native to Asia. Originally cultivated across India, it was shipped to China in the 13th century. Since then, it gained popularity and is now used across Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean.

where can i buy bitter melon fruit

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The fruit itself is quite bitter, but this is what makes it special (and there are easy ways to make it taste good, which I'll share later!). It gives many dishes a twist, and in fact, some people crave the taste of bitter melon and swear that it is what gives certain dishes their characteristic flavor. But what makes this fruit even more appealing is its medicinal qualities. It is widely used in traditional and ayurvedic medicine for anything from wound healing to diabetes to digestive and liver support.

It may be a small fruit, but it's mighty. Packed with phytonutrients and vitamins, it's a good source of vitamins C, A, and E. It also is rich in B vitamins, including folate and B2. Additionally, it has potassium, iron, magnesium, and zinc. If that's not enough, it contains high levels of antioxidants. The medicinal properties of bitter melon are attributed to antioxidant classes2 called phenols, flavonoids, isoflavones, terpenes, anthraquinones, and glucosinolates. These are also the compounds that contribute to the bitter taste of the fruit.

In traditional Chinese medicine, bitter melon is frequently used for diabetes. The main components of bitter melon that are attributed to the anti-diabetic effects are called chantarin, polypeptide-p, and vicine. The thought3 is that, when ingested, these chemicals act somewhat similarly to insulin: They help the body absorb blood sugar into cells and store it in muscle and fat. This all sounds very promising, but high-quality research on diabetes and bitter melon is still somewhat conflicting, and more evidence is needed, particularly given that the dose4 needed to achieve anti-diabetic effects is quite high.

The potential healing properties of bitter melon are not limited to anti-diabetic effects. In traditional Chinese medicine, the plant is believed to have anti-inflammatory, anti-mutagen or cholesterol-lowering properties. The fruit, leaves, stems, and roots are all used3 to help treat gastrointestinal disorders, ulcers, kidney stones, liver disease, cancer, infections, psoriasis, menstrual problems, and skin infections and wounds. Bitter melon is believed to have antiviral properties, stimulating the body's own defense system, and supporting fighting off infections. It is also a popular traditional remedy for malaria due to its anthelmintic properties5.

Bitter melon can be used in a number of ways. If it is taken for medicinal purposes, it is usually available as a capsule or juice. The supplements are highly concentrated extracts of the seeds. They are commercially available and have few side effects, though an exception is that people with low blood sugar should be cautious when taking bitter melon supplements, as there could be adverse effects (it is, after all, mimicking insulin in your body, as noted above!). I'd recommend discussing this with your dietitian or doctor to make sure there are no contraindications.

When cooking with bitter melon, the healing effects tend to be less potent, as some of the nutrients are denatured during the cooking process, though there are still health benefits to be reaped. Pachad, a South Indian creamy cucumber yogurt sauce that contains bitter melon, is considered a medicinal dish for diabetes. The fruit is popular in Indian cuisine: In North India, it's used in curries and is often served pickled. In South India, it is eaten fried with other vegetables, served with nuts, or in soups.

In Chinese cuisine, the fruit is valued for its bitter taste and is usually fried with meat. Bitter melon is a popular ingredient in Okinawan (one of the long-lived Blue Zones) dishes. The fruit is also widely used in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Trinidad, and Tobago or Mauritius. In all these cultures, bitter melon is valued for its special taste and healing properties.

Many Asian or Indian grocers or markets carry bitter melon, which looks like a shriveled, light-green cucumber. You can also occasionally find it at natural markets or Whole Foods (I'd call and ask ahead of time). Most natural markets will carry it in tincture or capsule form, and of course, you can find these online as well.

You can buy bitter melon as a supplement. You can also find it at many Asian grocery stores. It might be fresh, dried, canned, or pickled. There are bitter melon seeds, flowers, leaves, and juice. You could even find bitter melon tea bags.

Don't take bitter melon if you have G6PD deficiency. You could get a condition called "favism" after you eat bitter melon seeds. This can cause severe symptoms like headache, fever, stomach pain, and coma.

A 3-month study in 24 adults with diabetes showed that taking 2,000 mg of bitter melon daily decreased blood sugar and hemoglobin A1c, a test used to measure blood sugar control over three months (7).

Summary Animal studies show that bitter melon extract may decrease cholesterol levels, which could help support heart health. Nonetheless, human research to confirm these effects is lacking.

Note that these studies were performed using high-dose bitter melon supplements. It remains unclear whether eating bitter melon as part of your regular diet would have the same beneficial effects on health.

But for every study finding a positive result, there seems to be two with negative findings. This 2014 review of four RCTs looked at a total of 208 patients and found that bitter melon had no effect on A1C (amount of hemoglobin with attached glucose) or blood glucose levels. This 2015 study with 95 participants confirmed the hypoglycemic effects of bitter melon, but found it offered poor glycemic control compared to glibenclamide (a commonly prescribed medication for type 2 diabetes).

The most comprehensive review of the lot, done in 2012, examined four RCTs, a total of 479 patients, and found that bitter melon offer no difference in glycemic control compared to a placebo or to the medications metformin or glibenclamide.

There is some debate over the effects of the preparation and administration of the bitter melon on the results. In general, it seems that the fresher the better, with fruit smoothies and juices showing the best results, and capsules the worst. But even those best results are no better than a placebo.

Recent scientific exploration on this plant elucidated potential biological effect on both animal and clinical studies. Apart from its potential antibacterial [36] and antiviral activities [37], bitter melon extracts are also effective against cancer and were found to be effective for the treatment of ulcer, malaria, pain and inflammation, psoriasis, dyslipidemia, and hypertension. Momordica charantia also contains biologically active chemical compounds such as glycosides, saponins, alkaloids, fixed oils, triterpenes, proteins, and steroids [38]. Several other biologically active chemical constituents have so far been isolated from different parts of the plant, including the leaves, fruit pulp, and seeds.

Several mechanisms for lowering fat mass in obesity have been proposed. Generally, increased fatty acid transport would facilitate fat burning in tissues. Carnitine palmitoyltransferase (CPT) system is the predominant system for transporting the fatty acid to mitochondrial matrix [83]. Two CPTs were identified so far, CPT-1 and CPT-2, and a carnitine. CPT-1 resides on the inner surface of the outer mitochondrial membrane and is a major site of regulation of mitochondrial fatty acid uptake. It is evident that obesity may reduce the lipid oxidation in skeletal muscle due to the reduced expression and activity of CPT system in human and animal [84]. Earlier investigations also suggest that inhibition of CPT-1 with the chemical etomoxir increases lipid deposition and exacerbates insulin resistance when animals are placed on a HF diet [85], whereas overexpression of CPT-1 improved lipid-induced insulin resistance [86]. Additionally, increased skeletal muscle CPT-1 protein expression is sufficient to increase fatty acid oxidation and to prevent HF diet-induced fatty acid esterification into intracellular lipids, subsequently leading to enhanced muscle insulin sensitivity in HF-fed rats [87]. Bitter melon supplementation in these rats significantly decreased the body weight gain by increasing the hepatic and muscle mitochondrial carnitine palmitoyltransferase-I (CPT-1) and acyl-CoA dehydrogenase enzyme [62].

Mitochondrial uncoupling is another process in mitochondria whereby most of the energy consumed will be converted into heat rather than producing ATP. The proton gradient generated for the ATP synthesis is consumed through specified protein function known as uncoupling proteins which are attaining interest in recent years because of their critical role in energy expenditure and lipid metabolism [88]. Several uncoupling proteins have been isolated, that is, UCP1, UCP2, UCP3, UCP4, and UCP5. These proteins are distinctively expressed in several tissues and primarily participate in proton leaking. Alteration in function of these proteins will be beneficial in weight reduction in obesity [88]. In mice, genetic manipulation of UCP3 in skeletal muscle suggests that this protein is involved in the regulation of energy expenditure [89]. UCP1 in brown adipose tissue (BAT) and UCP3 in red gastrocnemius muscle were increased due to bitter melon supplementation followed by increased expression of the transcription co-activator PGC-1α, a key regulator of lipid oxidation [62].

Bitter melon extracts showed lipid lowering effect both in diabetic and HF diet fed rats (Table 2). Bitter melon exhibited a marked reduction in the hepatic TC and TG in dietary cholesterol fed rats [66]. However, the bitter melon extract showed little effect on serum lipid parameters but increased HDL-C both in the presence and absence of dietary cholesterol in rats [66]. Ahmed et al. reported that 10 weeks of supplementation of the plant extract normalized the increased plasma nonesterified cholesterol, TGs, and phospholipids in streptozotocin- (STZ-) induced diabetic rats [67]. Treatment for 30 days with Momordica charantia fruit extract to diabetic rats also decreased TG and LDL and increased HDL level significantly [68]. Chen and Li also reported that 0.75% bitter melon extracts supplementation reduced the plasma cholesterol in rats fed a HF diet [58]. Another study showed that bitter melon reduced TG and LDL levels and increased HDL levels in high sucrose fed rats [71]. Ground bitter melon seeds (3.0% wt/wt) decreased TC and LDL-C and increased HDL-C in female Zucker rats [73]. The plant supplementation also decreased plasma level of TG, cholesterol, and FFA in plasma of offspring rats fed a HF diet [72]. Oishi et al. reported that saponin fraction of the plant decreased the TAG and pancreatic lipase activity in corn oil loaded rats [69]. Decreased pancreatic lipase activity is particularly important in fat absorption from gut wall as it enhances the fat digestion to fatty acids and increased plasma fatty acid level after fat intake. Thus reduction of pancreatic lipase would be a crucial target for lowering circulating FFAs. 041b061a72

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