Novel bitter melon extract show metabolic and anti-obesity effects: Study

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Momordica charantia "old" fruit with seeds. Image: H. Zell
Momordica charantia "old" fruit with seeds. Image: H. Zell

Related tags: Fatty acid

Oil extracts from the seeds of bitter melon (Momordica charantia) may help reduce body weight, suggests a new study from China.

The novel bitter melon extract was found to be a rich source of conjugated linolenic acid (CLnA, cis9, trans11, trans13-18:3) and of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA, cis9, trans11-18:2), and data from an animal feeding study indicated a potent anti-obesity effect.

Writing in the Journal of Nutrition & Intermediary Metabolism​, the researchers reported that supplementing a high fat diet with 10 grams per kilogram of the novel bitter melon extract led to significantly lower body weights than animals only receiving the high fat diet.

This dose of bitter melon extract was also associated with a lower degree of obesity, but lower doses did not have any significant effects.

“[T]his beneficial effect was partially interpreted as the increased lipid metabolism, and leptin also participated in the overall regulating process,” ​they wrote. “This is a detailed exploration of [bitter melon extract’s] anti-obesity effect, facilitating the rational use of this herbal plant to address this increasingly severe issue, obesity.”

Study details

Scientists from Hefei University of Technology and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences used a supercritical extraction technique to obtain the bitter melon seed oil, and found that the oil contained 43% CLnA and 13% CLA.

Bitter melon extracts are already used in dietary supplements positioned for blood sugar management. 

Lab mice eating a high fat diet were randomly divided to receive supplemental bitter melon seed oil (BMSO) at doses of 0, 1, 5, or 10 grams per kilogram for three weeks.

Results showed that bitter melon supplementation was associated with decreased body-weight, and fat tissue size, whereas the liver weight stayed unchanged.

“The [free fatty acid] FFA level was markedly reduced by high fat diet, a phenomenon that could be completely rescued by the supplementation of high-dose BMSO,”​ wrote the researchers. “As the product of triglyceride hydrolysis, serum FFA concentration is determined by lipid metabolism and oxidation rate. Therefore, the increased serum FFA could signal an enhanced lipid metabolism.

“Combined with the invariable energy consumption, it could be deduced that changes of energy expenditure might mediate BMSO's repairment for the imbalanced energy homeostasis caused by obesity.”

Source: Journal of Nutrition & Intermediary Metabolism
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.jnim.2016.04.002
“Novel bitter melon extracts highly yielded from supercritical extraction reduce the adiposity through the enhanced lipid metabolism in mice fed a high fat diet”
Authors: Li Xu et al.

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