A warty, green-colored, unripe fruit of an annual tropical vine used in Asian cooking and for its medicinal properties, defines bitter melon. This fruit is also called bitter apple, bitter gourd, bitter squash, and balsam-pear. In other languages bitter melon has many names. Its many varieties differ substantially in shape and bitterness of the fruit. Here Ralph Flores, FoodIsMedicine.com, reflects on results of a study on bitter melon seed oil:
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“Bitter melons may taste unpleasant to some people, but its health benefits cannot be denied. In particular, a study in China suggested that oil extracts from bitter melon seeds have the potential to support weight loss. The results of the study, published in the Journal of Nutrition & Intermediary Metabolism, also pointed out that consuming bitter melon seed oil could restore the balance between lipid intake and metabolism.
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The study, led by researchers from the Hefei University of Technology and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, built on popular knowledge on the health benefits of bitter melons. Earlier studies have also looked at the correlation between the vegetable and obesity. One such study, which was also led by the Hefei University of Technology, stated that bitter melon suppressed the abnormal enlargement of adipose tissue, a hallmark symptom of obesity, based on animal studies. In another study, researchers concluded that aside from obesity, it also can also decrease metabolic syndrome, a condition defined by the occurrence of high blood sugar, body fat accumulation around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels – which is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. (Related: Bitter Melon Is a Safe and Effective Treatment for Type 2 Diabetes.)
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Researchers for this study took it a step further: They looked at the effects of bitter melon seeds in a novel approach and investigated the mechanisms behind its anti-obesity capacity. To obtain bitter melon seed oil, the team used a process called supercritical extraction, which effectively separates the oil from the bitter melon seeds.
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To understand the main ingredients in the oil extract, researchers subjected it to high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) analysis. Based on the results, the extract contained at least 43 percent of conjugated linolenic acid – a fatty acid that aids in regulating inflammation – and 14 percent of conjugated linoleic acid, which can help protect against neurodegenerative diseases.”
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