Properties Of Ampalaya


Ampalaya, also known as bitter melon, is a tropical fruit that grows in Africa, Asia, South America and India. The bitter-tasting fruit is orange-yellow when ripe, but resembles a green cucumber prior to ripening. Ampalaya has documented hypoglycemic, or blood-sugar lowering, effects, reports the University of Colorado. In fact, effects of this plant’s extracts provide action comparable to oral hypoglycemic agents like metformin and thiazolidinedione drugs.

Consult a doctor before trying ampalaya, which should not be used by children or pregnant women.

Properties with Anti-Diabetic Action

Ampalaya has insulin-like polypeptides, called p-insulin, in its fruits and seeds. Insulin helps your body use and store blood glucose when you eat food, advises the American Diabetes Association. The plant also contains leptin, a hormone that can play a role in insulin resistance. While bitter melon has a scientifically proven track record for improving insulin resistance in the body, the exact mechanism by which the plant works remains unknown, reports Qixuan Chen, lead author of a study published in the Journal of Nutrition. The plant’s ability to lower blood-glucose levels might be the result of its ability to create a metabolic environment in the body that reduces body fat, specifically visceral fat, according to Chen. Alpha and beta-momorcharin, both proteins, are found in the fruit’s seeds. These produce fat-reducing activity in the body, according to C.P. Khare’s “Indian Medicinal Plants: An Illustrated Dictionary.”

Conjugated Linolenic Acid

Ampalaya has conjugated linolenic acid (CLA) derivatives including octadecatrienoic fatty acid, reports the Journal of Postgraduate Medicine. The linolenic acid is found in ampalaya’s seed oil and can kill off colon cancer cells, according to a study by Yumiko Yasui published in the journal, "Anticancer Research." CLA also may help build lean body mass and reduce body fat, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. More studies need to be conducted before the true effect CLA has on people trying to lose weight is known, advise experts at UMMC.


The protein Momordinica Anti-HIV Protein, MW 30kD, or MAP30, in ampalaya may have anti-cancer indications, according to the Journal of Postgraduate Medicine. It can inhibit human breast cancer cells that are estrogen-independent and highly metastatic, according to S. Lee-Huang, lead author for a study published in "Anticancer Research." A separate study performed on mice and published in the "American Journal of Chinese Medicine," shows that bitter melon inhibits development of mammary tumors, according to lead author H. Nagasawa. A study published in the "European Journal of Cancer Prevention" reveals that it’s also effective against skin tumors in mice, according to lead author C. Ganguly.

Other Properties

Ampalaya’s leaves have several nutrients. These include thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, iron, sodium, and ascorbic acid, according to the University of Colorado. The alkaloid momordicine is contained in ampalaya’s seeds and fruit is responsible for its bitter taste, according to “Vegetables for Health and Healing,” by Hean Chooi Ong.

  • “The Journal of Nutrition:” Bitter Melon (Momordica charantia) Reduces Adiposity, Lowers Serum Insulin and Normalizes Glucose Tolerance in Rats Fed a High Fat Diet; Qixuan Chen et al.; 2003
  • BioLine: “Journal of Postgraduate Medicine;” Dietary factors and cancer chemoprevention: An overview of obesity-related malignancies; Murthy NS et al.
  • PubMed: “Anticancer Research;” Inhibition of MDA-MB-231 human breast tumor xenografts and HER2 expression by anti-tumor agents GAP31 and MAP30; S. Lee-Huang; 2000
  • PubMed: “American Journal of Chinese Medicine,” Effects of bitter melon (Momordica charantia l.) or ginger rhizome (Zingiber offifinale rosc) on spontaneous mammary tumorigenesis in SHN mice; H. Nagasawa; 2002
  • PubMed: “European Journal of Cancer Prevention;” Prevention of carcinogen-induced mouse skin papilloma by whole fruit aqueous extract of Momordica charantia; C Ganguly; 2000


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