Bitter melon and cancer have a few things in common. To many people, they are both bitter and bad news. Also, bitter melon looks like a cucumber suffering from skin cancer. But if you put these two in boxing ring, fortunately, it is the bitter melon that is more likely to win.
Bitter melon is also called balsam pear, karela, ampalaya, wild cucumber or bitter gourd. It is the most bitter of all vegetables but also the most nutritious. It contains a ton of vitamins and minerals, which include zinc, folate, phosphorous, calcium and manganese, among others. It is one of the least known and least liked vegetables but is more nutritious than the famous spinach, broccoli or banana.
It thrives in countries with tropical climate such as Indonesia, Thailand, India and the Philippines. It also grows in Africa and the Caribbean.
The bitter gourd’s nutritional value and therapeutic capabilities could have easily catapulted this odd-looking fruit-vegetable to popularity but something obvious is getting in the way: its extremely bitter flavor. Nothing comes close.
The person who is taking a bite for the first time is about to find out what bitter really tastes like. After a few bites, however, the palate adjusts and the warty vegetable becomes deliciously bitter. This fruit grows on you. Asians and people who are used to eating bitter gourd prefer eating it in its natural form to get the most of its nutrients rather than simply taking bitter melon supplements in capsule or tablet form.
So what are its nutritional benefits? It is widely known that bitter melon controls diabetes because it contains hypoglycemic and insulin-like compounds that control glucose uptake and lowers blood sugar level. Bitter melon teas, juices, extracts and supplements are mostly distributed and popularized as an effective treatment for diabetes mellitus. About 171 million people are reported to be suffering from diabetes. That is a huge market.
Bitter melon also treats different sorts of illnesses such as hemorrhage, indigestion, cholera, malaria, jaundice, menstrual pains and hypertension. It is also believed to improve digestion, blood quality, blood circulation, eye performance, and the immune system. It is this ability to affect the immune system that researchers are probing into in order to study the probability that bitter gourd can inhibit HIV infection. Most recent studies reveal that bitter melon may be used to treat cancer.
A study conducted by Saint Louis University in 2010 reported that bitter melon extracts stunted the growth of breast cancer cells and that the vegetable could someday be used as a chemopreventive agent against breast cancer.
“Our findings suggest that bitter melon extract modulates several signal transduction pathways, which induces breast cancer cell death,” said Ratna B. Ray, Ph.D., lead researcher and Department of Pathology professor at Saint Louis University. “This extract can be utilized as a dietary supplement for the prevention of breast cancer.”
Nothing is final yet as more studies are being conducted, but the odds are looking very good. Soon, the lowly, odd-looking bitter gourd could be curing both cancer and HIV-AIDS. Bitter melon and cancer might just cancel each other out, and we see the vegetable getting the upper hand.