Momordica charantia fruit reduces plasma fructosamine whereas stems and leaves increase plasma insulin in adult mildly diabetic obese Göttingen Minipigs

Koopmans, Sietse Jan; Binnendijk, Gisabeth; Ledoux, Allison; Choi, Young Hae; Mes, Jurriaan J.; Guan, Xiaonan; Molist, Francesc; Minh, Tâm Pham Thi; van der Wielen, Nikkie


Background Traditionally Momordica charantia (Bitter gourd) is known for its blood glucose lowering potential. This has been validated by many previous studies based on rodent models but human trials are less convincing and the physiological mechanisms underlying the bioactivity of Bitter gourd are still unclear. The present study compared the effects of whole fruit or stems-leaves from five different Bitter gourd cultivars on metabolic control in adult diabetic obese Göttingen Minipigs. Methods Twenty streptozotocin-induced diabetic (D) obese Minipigs (body weight ~85 kg) were subdivided in mildly and overtly D pigs and fed 500 g of obesogenic diet per day for a period of three weeks, supplemented with 20 g dried powdered Bitter gourd or 20 g dried powdered grass as isoenergetic control in a cross-over, within-subject design. Results Bitter gourd fruit from the cultivars “Palee” and “Good healthy” reduced plasma fructosamine concentrations in all pigs combined (from 450±48 to 423±53 and 490±50 to 404±48 μmol/L, both p<0.03, respectively) indicating improved glycemic control by 6% and 17%. These effects were statistically confirmed in mildly D pigs but not in overtly D pigs. In mildly D pigs, the other three cultivars of fruit showed consistent numerical but no significant improvements in glycemic control. The composition of Bitter gourd fruit was studied by metabolomics profiling and analysis identified three metabolites from the class of triterpenoids (Xuedanoside H, Acutoside A, Karaviloside IX) that were increased in the cultivars “Palee” (>3.9-fold) and “Good healthy” (>8.9-fold) compared to the mean of the other three cultivars. Bitter gourd stems and leaves from the cultivar “Bilai” increased plasma insulin concentrations in all pigs combined by 28% (from 53±6 to 67±9 pmol/L, p<0.03). The other two cultivars of stems and leaves showed consistent numerical but no significant increases in plasma insulin concentrations. The effects on plasma insulin concentrations were confirmed in mildly D pigs but not in overtly D pigs. Conclusions Fruits of Bitter gourd improve glycemic control and stems-leaves of Bitter gourd increase plasma insulin concentrations in an obese pig model for mild diabetes. The effects of Bitter gourd fruit on glycemic control seem consistent but relatively small and cultivar specific which may explain the varying results of human trials reported in the literature.