This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
Research has already shown that the juice from bitter melons, a tropical and subtropical member of the gourd family, can successfully kill breast cancer cells in a Petri-dish culture medium. Now a group of scientists working at the Colorado University Cancer Center in Denver have found it may be the magic bullet against pancreatic cancer.
Researchers released the results of a study in the journal Carcinogenesis demonstrating how bitter melon juice restricts the ability of pancreatic cancer cells to metabolize glucose, thus cutting the cells’ energy source and eventually killing them. This study provides compelling evidence that the natural extract effectively neutralizes pancreatic cancer cells.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the most difficult forms of the disease to diagnose and treat, and prognosis of the illness is extremely poor as it takes the lives of nearly 50,000 men and women in the U.S. each year. The pancreas is responsible for releasing digestive enzymes to aid the breakdown of food and stimulating the production of insulin to move sugar from the blood to the cells for fuel. The disease is on the rise, along with the epidemic increase in new diabetes cases and obesity rates over the past half century, and most notably during the last few years.
Lead study author, Dr. Rajesh Agarwal noted, “People, especially in Asian countries, are already consuming it in quantity. We show that it affects the glucose metabolism pathway to restrict energy and kill pancreatic cancer cells.”
Scientists became interested in the connection between pancreatic cancer and bitter melon juice because diabetics are known to be at much higher risk of developing the disease and bitter melon has been shown to affect diabetes through centuries of use in China and India.
Limit Dietary Sugar & Monitor Body Weight to Prevent Metabolic Breakdown That Fuels Pancreatic Cancer
Using a mouse model to determine the effect of bitter melon juice on pancreatic cancer cells, the researchers found that the juice regulates insulin secretion by pancreatic beta cells. After analyzing cell cultures, the team showed that mouse models of pancreatic cancer that were fed bitter melon juice were 60 percent less likely to develop the disease than controls. After a detailed examination, scientists found that bitter melon juice alters pancreatic cancer cell metabolism and activates the AMP-activated protein kinase, an enzyme that indicates low energy levels in the cells.
Noting that bitter melon juice may provide a natural treatment to pancreatic cancer that avoids the use of toxic pharmaceuticals, Dr. Agarwal concluded that “It’s a very exciting finding… many researchers are engineering new drugs to target cancer cells’ ability to supply themselves with energy, and here we have a naturally-occurring compound that may do just that.”
Closely monitoring body weight and sugar intake to avoid metabolic dysfunction may help to protect against pancreatic cancer. Health-minded individuals may want to supplement with bitter melon extract (500 mg/day) to provide an added level of protection against this devastating disease.