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Ampalaya as Antidiabetic Agent

Known as bittermelon or bittergourd in English, with a scientific name of Momordica charantia, ampalaya is the most popular bitter vegetable in the Philippines. In fact, when learning the different taste palettes, in as much as sugar had been used as the standard example for sweet in the academe, ampalaya is the standard example for what is bitter.

In spite of its apparent bitterness, this vegetable has a unique pleasantness especially among adults and older people. It’s like beer which is also bitter yet adults long for its once they get used to it. But more than just its distinct tang which makes it preferable, ampalaya is especially known for its nutritious and healing powers. Apart from the commonly held belief that ampalaya helps in cleansing the blood and detoxification of the body, the vegetable is especially known for sugar lowering affect, which is particularly helpful for diabetics. The vegetable or fruit helps stimulate the activity of the pancreatic beta-cells in the production of insulin, the hormone needed for controlling sugar. Moreover, some studies further content that ampalaya also increase the uptake of glucose by the cells. This is especially helpful for patients who are insulin resistant. The principal ingredient that contributes to the sugar-lowering effect of ampalaya is the momordicin, which is similarly responsible for the plant’s bitterness.

Lately however, a study by the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) has further elevated the status of ampalaya from just a food supplement to a medicinal herb. In particular, PCHRD studies revealed that ampalaya acts as an antidiabetic agent. The study discovered that the ampalaya leave is comparable to the traditiaonl anti-diabetic drug glibenclamide in terms of its effect of controlling and curing diabetes. Note that the leaves and not the fruit is claimed to be antidiabetic. It is possible that the leaves contain more momocardicin. However, while the study is definintly promising, this still requires further study to fully establish the validity of the claim. In the meantime, eating ampalaya is very much advisable especially for diabetics as it remains very much helpful for managing diabetes.

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