Bitter Melon and Cancer

September 28, 2011 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

According to an alarming report in the September issue of the journal Lancet Oncology, the number of new cases of cancer worldwide is expected to reach 27,000,000/year by the year 2030. The authors of the paper call for a comprehensive effort to better manage cost and human suffering by emphasizing “real value from new technologies”. One of the “new” technologies that’s being examined is the use of bitter melon (Momordica charantia) in prevalent malignancies such as prostate cancer.

In June of 2010, a scientific review described this tart, functional food as having “anti-tumor activity” and “no-to-low side effects in animals, as well as in humans”. Later in 2010 and onward into 2011, preliminary evidence emerged showing that bitter melon extract (BME) successfully interfered with prostate cancer progression in animal models and in vitro. But, why get so excited about a handful of trials that weren’t even conducted in humans? The reason for my optimism stems from seemingly unrelated studies that have explored the potential of bitter melon in managing diabetes in animals and humans alike. For instance, a publication appearing in the March 2011 issue of the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that a daily dosage of 2,000 mg of BME effectively lowered blood sugar and fructosamine levels in a group of type 2 diabetics.

Meanwhile, a study from August 2011 involving diabetic rats likewise discovered that BME “powerfully lowered (blood) glucose levels”. In fact, the excitement surrounding bitter melon is so great that nutritional experts are desperately trying to find ways to make it more palatable in order to promote greater consumption in the population at large. Here’s hoping they succeed in their objective and that more research continues to be published supporting the use of bitter melon in the fight against cancer and beyond.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – Bitter Melon: Antagonist to Cancer (link)

Study 2 – Bitter Melon Extract Impairs Prostate Cancer Cell Cycle Progression … (link)

Study 3 – Induction of G1 Arrest and Apoptosis in Androgen-Dependent Human (link)

Study 4 – Momordica Charantia Leaf Extract Suppresses Rat Prostate Cancer (link)

Study 5 – Bitter Melon Extracts in Diabetic and Normal Rats Favorably Influence (link)

Study 6 – Hypoglycemic Effect of Bitter Melon Compared with Metformin (link)

Study 7 – Strategies to Improve Palatability and Increase Consumption Intentions (link)

How Bitter Melon Extract (BME) Interferes w/ Cancer Progression

Source: Cancer Res. 2010 Mar 1;70(5):1925-31. (link)

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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Men's Health, Nutritional Supplements

10 Comments & Updates to “Bitter Melon and Cancer”

  1. Sai Says:

    Dear JP

    Great Info once again! We all know the effects of bitter melon on diabetes, but this is a very good information. So you think a bitter melon juice would be good way to add it daily?



  2. JP Says:

    Thank you, Sai!

    I think (fresh) bitter melon juice would be a fine way to consume it. Normally I don’t recommend juicing because of the high sugar content of the resulting fiber-free juice. However, in this case, bitter melon is naturally very low in sugar and likely instigates some degree of a hypoglycemic response.

    If I were to consume bitter melon juice daily, I would check to see what it did to my blood glucose levels. I would also start off with a relatively modest (1/2 to 1 melon) serving to determine how it affected me.

    Be well!


  3. G. Paul Says:

    Hi JP,

    Another gem!

    Thank you!


  4. JP Says:

    Thank you, Paul! Much appreciated! 🙂

    Be well!


  5. Iggy Dalrymple Says:

    Hey, I’ve been taking bitter melon for my blood sugar and didn’t even know it might be helping my prostate cancer.

  6. JP Says:

    Hi Iggy,

    How is your blood sugar? Do you think the bitter melon is helping to keep it in an optimal range?

    I’m still waiting on the human studies. But, the animal and in vitro experiments continue to yield positive results:

    A human study from over a decade ago:

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Updated 07/19/15:

    Int J Oncol. 2015 Apr;46(4):1849-57.

    Bitter melon juice targets molecular mechanisms underlying gemcitabine resistance in pancreatic cancer cells.

    Pancreatic cancer (PanC) is one of the most lethal malignancies, and resistance towards gemcitabine, the front-line chemotherapy, is the main cause for dismal rate of survival in PanC patients; overcoming this resistance remains a major challenge to treat this deadly malignancy. Whereas several molecular mechanisms are known for gemcitabine resistance in PanC cells, altered metabolism and bioenergetics are not yet studied. Here, we compared metabolic and bioenergetic functions between gemcitabine-resistant (GR) and gemcitabine-sensitive (GS) PanC cells and underlying molecular mechanisms, together with efficacy of a natural agent bitter melon juice (BMJ). GR PanC cells showed distinct morphological features including spindle-shaped morphology and a decrease in E-cadherin expression. GR cells also showed higher ATP production with an increase in oxygen consumption rate (OCR) and extracellular acidification rate (ECAR). Molecular studies showed higher expression of glucose transporters (GLUT1 and 4) suggesting an increase in glucose uptake by GR cells. Importantly, GR cells showed a significant increase in Akt and ERK1/2 phosphorylation and their inhibition decreased cell viability, suggesting their role in survival and drug resistance of these cells. Recently, we reported strong efficacy of BMJ against a panel of GS cells in culture and nude mice, which we expanded here and found that BMJ was also effective in decreasing both Akt and ERK1/2 phosphorylation and viability of GR PanC cells. Overall, we have identified novel mechanisms of gemcitabine resistance in PanC cells which are targeted by BMJ. Considering the short survival in PanC patients, our findings could have high translational potential in controlling this deadly malignancy.

    Be well!


  8. JP Says:

    Updated 07/19/15:

    J Lipids. 2015;2015:496169.

    Beneficial role of bitter melon supplementation in obesity and related complications in metabolic syndrome.

    Diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndrome are becoming epidemic both in developed and developing countries in recent years. Complementary and alternative medicines have been used since ancient era for the treatment of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Bitter melon is widely used as vegetables in daily food in Bangladesh and several other countries in Asia. The fruits extract of bitter melon showed strong antioxidant and hypoglycemic activities in experimental condition both in vivo and in vitro. Recent scientific evaluation of this plant extracts also showed potential therapeutic benefit in diabetes and obesity related metabolic dysfunction in experimental animals and clinical studies. These beneficial effects are mediated probably by inducing lipid and fat metabolizing gene expression and increasing the function of AMPK and PPARs, and so forth. This review will thus focus on the recent findings on beneficial effect of Momordica charantia extracts on metabolic syndrome and discuss its potential mechanism of actions.

    Be well!


  9. JP Says:

    Updated 07/19/15:

    Nutr J. 2015 Jan 26;14(1):13.

    Lower hypoglycemic but higher antiatherogenic effects of bitter melon than glibenclamide in type 2 diabetic patients.

    OBJECTIVE: Since antiquity bitter melon has been in use for treating diabetes but clinical trials show conflicting results about its usefulness. The present study aims to asses and compare the hypoglycemic and antiatherogenic effects as well as the safety of two different doses of bitter melon with glibenclamide.

    METHODS: A total of 95 participants were randomized into 3 groups; group I and group II received bitter melon (2 g/day and 4 g/day respectively) and group III received glibenclamide (5 mg/day) for 10 weeks. Glycemic control and antiatherogenic effects were determined by assessing glycohemoglobin (HbA1-c), fasting plasma glucose (FPG), 2 hour oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT), plasma sialic acid (PSA), systolic blood pressure (SBP), blood lipids and atherogenic index at different time periods.

    RESULTS: Compared to baseline, mean reduction in HbA1-c at the endpoint was significant among patients of group I, group II and group III (p ≤ 0.05, p ≤ 0.02 and p < 0.005 respectively) and same was the case for FPG (p ≤ 0.05, p < 0.04, p < 0.003 respectively), but the improvement in 2 hour OGTT was significant only in group III (p < 0.03). The decrease in PSA was observed only among group I and group II with the later showing significant reduction from baseline (p < 0.01). In group III, the level slightly increased. Parameters including blood lipids, atherogenic index, body weight and SBP improved among patients of group I and group II but deteriorated among group III patients. CONCLUSIONS: Our study concludes that bitter melon has a weaker hypoglycemic effect but ameliorates the diabetes associated cardiovascular (CV) risk factors more effectively than glibenclamide. Be well! JP

  10. JP Says:

    Updated 05/16/16:

    Chin J Nat Med. 2016 Feb;14(2):81-100.

    Bitter melon: a panacea for inflammation and cancer.

    Nature is a rich source of medicinal plants and their products that are useful for treatment of various diseases and disorders. Momordica charantia, commonly known as bitter melon or bitter gourd, is one of such plants known for its biological activities used in traditional system of medicines. This plant is cultivated in all over the world, including tropical areas of Asia, Amazon, east Africa, and the Caribbean and used as a vegetable as well as folk medicine. All parts of the plant, including the fruit, are commonly consumed and cooked with different vegetables, stir-fried, stuffed or used in small quantities in soups or beans to give a slightly bitter flavor and taste. The plant is reported to possess anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, anti-bacterial, anti-obesity, and immunomodulatory activities. The plant extract inhibits cancer cell growth by inducing apoptosis, cell cycle arrest, autophagy and inhibiting cancer stem cells. The plant is rich in bioactive chemical constituents like cucurbitane type triterpenoids, triterpene glycosides, phenolic acids, flavonoids, essential oils, saponins, fatty acids, and proteins. Some of the isolated compounds (Kuguacin J, Karaviloside XI, Kuguaglycoside C, Momordicoside Q-U, Charantin, α-eleostearic acid) and proteins (α-Momorcharin, RNase MC2, MAP30) possess potent biological activity. In the present review, we are summarizing the anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer activities of Momordica charantia along with a short account of important chemical constituents, providing a basis for establishing detail biological activities of the plant and developing novel drug molecules based on the active chemical constituents.

    Be well!


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