Tropical vegetable shows metabolic syndrome promise: Study

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Clinical trial

Extracts from the tropical vegetable bitter gourd may help to alleviate the effects and incidence of metabolic syndrome, according to preliminary research.

The study –published in Nutrition Journal​ – reports that wild bitter gourd (Momordica charantia L.)​ a common tropical vegetable grown in parts of Asia, Africa and the Caribbean has potentially beneficial effects on the incidence of metabolic syndrome (MetS) in humans.

The preliminarily study explored the potential effects of wild bitter gourd on MetS in a group of 42 participants. The researchers, led by Ching-jang Huang of the National Taiwan University, Taiwan, demonstrated, for the first time, that a daily dose of bitter gourd over a three month period significantly reduced the effects of MetS.

“This is the first report to show that wild bitter gourd improved MetS in human which provides a firm base for further randomized controlled trials to evaluate the efficacy of wild bitter gourd supplementation,”​ said Huang and colleagues.

The authors added that the results suggest further randomised-placebo controlled trials could confirm the benefits of bitter gourd on metabolic disorders.

Bitter gourd

Wild bitter gourd is a common tropical vegetable that been used in traditional and folk medicine due to its supposed anti-diabetic, anti-bacterial, antiviral and anticancer activities.

The researchers highlighted that many of the supposed effects of wild bitter gourd have been scientifically demonstrated in past decades – Among which they noted that the anti-diabetic activity and possible mechanisms of bitter gourd have been demonstrated and reviewed in molecular, cellular and animal models, as well as in human studies.

However, Huang and his team explained that to date, most published human clinical trials on the vegetable focused on the blood glucose control, with very few addressing wider issues of MetS.

“It is anticipated to learn from this preliminary study the safety, feasibility and validity of experimental design, including subject inclusion and exclusion criteria, dosage, period of supplementation, length of washout period, endpoint for examination ... to support double blind, randomized-placebo controlled clinical trials in the future,”​ they explained.

Study details

The preliminary study consisted of an open-label, uncontrolled, supplementation trial on 42 people diagnosed with MetS.

The group were supplemented with 4.8 grams of lyophilised wild bitter gourd powder in capsules every day for three months, and were checked for MetS symptoms at enrollment and at a monthly follow-up. The participants continued to be checked for MetS for a further three months post supplementation.

Huang and colleagues reported that MetS incidence rate significantly decreased compared to baseline. They noted that the decrease in incidence rate was highest at the end of the three-month supplementation period (19%).

"The difference remained significant at end of the 4th month (one month after the cessation of supplementation) but the effect diminished at the 5th and 6th months after baseline,” ​explained the team.

Huang and his colleagues concluded that their results “demonstrate the beneficial effects of wild bitter gourd on MetS.”

“Daily dose of 4.8 g lyophilized wild bitter gourd powder significantly decreased the MetS incidence rate after three months of supplementation and this improved status remained for one month, but not additional months, after the supplementation ceased,” ​they said.

“This indicates that the washout period should be at least one month if a crossover study is to be conducted.”

Source: Nutrition Journal
Volume 11, Issue 4, doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-11-4
“Wild bitter gourd improves metabolic syndrome: A preliminary dietary supplementation trial”
Authors: C.H. Tsai, .E.C.F. Chen, H.S. Tsay, C.j. Huang

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