The fruit and leaves of the bitter gourd plant contain several vitamins, including vitamins A and C and the B-complex vitamins — water-soluble vitamins that are leached from the plant when you brew bitter gourd tea. Bitter gourd also contains a number of natural compounds with biological activity, including alkaloids, glycosides and triterpenoids. It also provides linoleic acid, an essential, omega-6 fatty acid and oleic acid, a healthy, unsaturated dietary fat. Compounds called vicine, charatin and polypeptide-P that affect how your body manages carbohydrate nutrients are also found in bitter gourd.
Blood Sugar and Diabetes
According to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, bitter melon increases uptake of blood glucose by your liver, fatty tissues and muscles, stimulating these tissues to convert glucose into glycogen, its storage form. These changes tend to lower levels of blood glucose. This helps lessen the demand on your pancreas for insulin, the hormone that lowers blood sugar, and may improve your glucose tolerance. Overall, compounds in bitter gourd improve glucose management and might lower your risk of developing diabetes or help regulate your blood glucose if you already have the disorder.
Researchers found that a compound from bitter gourd can force colon cancer cells to die. Another 2017 study in “Oncotarget” saw similar effects against breast cancer cells, along with the ability to inhibit specific pathways that activate tumor growth. Additionally, according to a 2016 review in the “Chinese Journal of Natural Medicines”, bitter melon has anti-inflammatory properties that may suppress the inflammation that fuels cancer.