The compound that causes the bitter taste of wild cucumber may have the potential to improve blood glucose control, according to a new study.
The research, conducted at the University of California and published in Science, found that cucurbitaci, the compound that makes wild cucumber, pumpki, and watermelon taste bitter, has a number of beneficial health effects, primarily on cancer and diabetes.
Mice induced with cancer cells were also 60 per cent less likely to develop cancer after consuming high levels of the bitter juice. The researchers concluded that enzymes from the juice cut off the food supply of cancer cells by hindering the transportation of glucose.
Cucurbitacin was also found to have a positive effect on blood sugar levels. Although the compound was tested primarily on mice, the reduction of blood glucose was considerable. Previous studies have demonstrated that lowered blood sugar levels can be observed after as little as 30 minutes, with the greatest reductions occurring after four hours.
The research could make it easier to produce sufficiently large quantities of cucurbitacin to use in clinical trials, and potentially in medicine.
The study was conducted in collaboration with researchers from China: the fruit and leaves of cucurbits have been used for their medical benefits for thousands of years in India and China.

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