Categories: NewsA vegetable used in Chinese and Indian medicine to treat diabetes may also destroy breast cancer cells, according to a study published in the March 1 issue of "Cancer Research," a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.
Lead researcher Ratna Ray, Ph.D., a professor in the department of pathology at Saint Louis University, uses bitter melon in her stir fries but was surprised to find the vegetable's extract also appears to "kill" breast cancer cells and prevent them from multiplying.
"To our knowledge, this is the first report describing the effect of bitter melon extract on cancer cells," Ray said in a statement. "Our result was encouraging. We have shown that bitter melon extract significantly induced death in breast cancer cells and decreased their growth and spread."
Bitter melon gets its name because it's among the most bitter of all vegetables, although it's also called African cucumber, balsam pear and bitter gourd. It is widely grown and used in India, Southeast Asia, China, Africa, and the Caribbean. It resembles a shriveled cucumber or gourd and the texture of the vegetable is described as being similar to both a cucumber and bell pepper. It's high in fiber and vitamin C. It also contains the B vitamins, riboflavin, thiamine, niacin and B6, as well as magnesium, potassium and zinc.
In the East, bitter melon is often used in stir fries, soups, and stews, as well as for pickling.
In the U.S., bitter melon can purchased at specialty grocery stores, especially Asian and Indian grocers.