I have absolutely incredible news for you on diabetes and heart disease. An extract from a common Asian fruit can help even the worst diabetics. In fact, it can dramatically treat and prevent the complications of the disease. And it lowers cholesterol and triglyceride levels at the same time.

Though researchers performed the study only on rodents, the findings offer amazing hope for humans. That's because the researchers tested the fruit on experimental mice with a serious type of diabetes. The researchers induced diabetes with the chemical alloxan. It's a glucose look-alike. It damages or destroys the insulin-producing islet of Langerhans cells in the rodent's pancreas. With islet cells destroyed, you would think that the mice would have little if any room for improvement in sugar control. But that's not what happened.

The researchers gave the diabetic mice extracts of Momordica charantia fruit extract (MCE) at up to 600 mg/kg per day. They gave the extract in combination with glibenclamide (4 mg/kg daily) for 30 days. The rats that took the MCE had striking improvement. Their glucose levels dropped. Their hemoglobin A1C, a marker for sustained high glucose, also dropped. The MCE assisted muscle cells to take up glucose for combustion. And it inhibited the rodents' livers from making more glucose from stored glycogen.

But it gets even better! Serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels in obese rats significantly decreased. HDL (good) cholesterol levels increased with MCE. And here's the fabulous part: In addition to the above effects, the researchers found that MCE enhanced insulin secretion by the islets (cells) of Langerhans.

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Wow, that's just a huge finding. A common plant that helps restore function in damaged islet cells. You might remember that I reported on a rodent study in which researchers infused diabetic animals with cayenne pepper extract right into the pancreatic artery. The treatment awakened sleeping islet cells.

Now we have another study on rodents with damaged insulin cells also recovering with a plant extract. Only this time, the researchers fed the product, not infused. What is this product? It's common bitter melon, a product widely available at health food stores. And it's cheap.

Bitter melon contains several very promising bioactive compounds. These compounds activate the protein AMPK. It regulates fuel metabolism and enables glucose uptake. Diabetes impairs these processes.

Doctors typically rely on glibenclamide, the conventional diabetes drug Glyburide, to kick-start the insulin release of islet cells. But this drug has some safety issues. Bitter melon doesn't have any safety issues.

If I had diabetes, I would start with the diet, nutritional, and lifestyle recommendations I've repeatedly made in previous issues. There's no risk at all in doing this. I'd then add bitter melon, knowing that it's safe, without Glyburide. Previous studies confirm bitter melon safely benefits diabetes in humans.

Please note that the dose in the rodents was high, corresponding to about 10-40 grams per day for an average man (155 pounds). As with all approaches to high blood sugar, make changes judiciously and not all at once. I would begin with two grams per day in four divided doses (half a gram each) and gradually work my way up. Most people tolerate bitter melon fairly well. But to the best of my knowledge, researchers haven't studied it at these doses in humans.

BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2007 Sept 24.

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