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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Bitter Gourd; A vegetable to Improve Human Health

Authors
item Behera, Tusar - AG RESEARCH INST INDIA
item Simon, Philipp
item Staub, Jack

Submitted to: Medicinal and Aromatic Plants: Production, Business and Applications
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: November 10, 2007
Publication Date: November 20, 2007
Citation: Behera, T., Simon, P.W., Staub, J.E. 2007. Bitter Gourd; A vegetable to Improve Human Health. Medicinal and Aromatic Plants: Production, Business and Applications. 1(2):224-227.

Interpretive Summary: The text in the article is linked to the photographs on the journal cover. Vegetables play a significant role in human nutrition, especially as vitamin sources (i.e., A, B6, C, E, thiamine, and niacin), minerals, and dietary fiber. These compounds are associated with reduced risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic diseases. Bitter gourd (syn. bitter melon, balsam pear) belongs to the taxonomic family Cucurbitaceae, and is an Asian vegetable crop species that is widely grown for its medicinal attributes, especially in China and India and throughout Southeast Asia. There are also small acreages of this crop species grown in the United States, primarily in California and Florida. Traditionally, plant extracts of bitter gourd have been used in treatment of diabetes (e.g., India, China, and Central America). The beneficial attributes of hypoglycaemic compounds and the anti-carcinogenic and hypercholesterolemic properties in bitter gourd fruit flesh, seed, and vegetative plant parts have been widely documented. The antimicrobial, antifertility, antiviral, and antiulcerogenic activities characterized in bitter gourd have been attributed to a broad array of biologically active phytochemicals, including triterpenes, pisteins, and steroids. In addtion, bitter gourd contains high concentrations of the antioxidant properties of carotenoids that may protect humans from carcinogens and heart disease. This article delineates these bitter gourd medicinal qualities, and indicates that it could be viewed as a "new crop species" used to enhance human health.

Technical Abstract: Vegetables play a significant role in human nutrition, especially as vitamin sources (i.e., A, B6, C, E, thiamine, and niacin), minerals, and dietary fiber. These compounds are associated with reduced risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic diseases. Bitter gourd (syn. bitter melon, balsam pear, Momordica charantia L.) belongs to family Cucurbitaceae, and is an Asian vegetable crop species is widely grown for its medicinal attributes, especially in China and India and throughout Southeast Asia. There are also small acreages of this crop species grown in the United States, primarily in California and Florida. Thus, it important to more clearly describe the potential value of this “new” crop species in terms of its value to U.S. agriculture. This is the focus of this work which presents statistical information on the nutritive value of bitter gourd, especially as it pertains to the high fruit concentrations of the antioxidant properties of carotenoids that may protect humans from carcinogens and heart disease. The total carotenoid concentration of the seeds of bitter gourd immature (~ 2.8 µg/g tissue) is relatively low compared to the ripe (~271 µg/g tissue) fruit. Carotene in ripe fruit is almost exclusively lycopene (~261 µg/g tissue), of which 96% of the carotenoids can be found in ripe seeds. Although vitamin C content of bitter gourd varies considerably (44.0-78.0 mg/g edible portion), the concentration of 16 essential amino acids and crude protein content (11.4-20.9 g/kg) is higher than that found in tomato and cucumber.

Last Modified: 4/17/2014
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