Asian Pumpkin Fights Type 1 Diabetes?
Pumpkin Extract May Help Protect Insulin-Making Cells From Type 1 Diabetes, Animal Tests Suggest
WebMD News Archive
July 9, 2007 -- Asian pumpkin may help thwart type 1 diabetes, according to
a preliminary new study from China.
The researchers studied rats. It's too soon to know if the findings apply to
Normally, people control blood sugar naturally through a hormone called
insulin, which is made by certain cells in the pancreas.
But in type 1 diabetes, the body's immune system mistakenly attacks those
pancreatic cells. That wrecks the insulin-making process, leaving blood sugar
uncontrolled without insulin shots.
The Chinese study suggests that Asian pumpkin extract may help protect those
pancreatic cells from the ravages of type 1 diabetes. The findings appear in
July's Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.
Pumpkin Extract vs. Diabetes?
The researchers included Tao Xia, PhD, of East China Normal University in
First, the scientists bought whole, mature Asian pumpkins -- popularly
called shark fin melon or Siam pumpkin -- at a Shanghai market. Those
pumpkins don't look like the orange pumpkins common in the U.S. Instead,
they've got a green and white rind.
The researchers took the pumpkins back to their lab, removed the seeds,
dried the fruit, and concocted a pumpkin extract.
Next, the researchers mixed the pumpkin extract with water and fed it to
rats for a month. Some of the rats had type 1 diabetes; other rats weren't
After a month of consuming the pumpkin extract daily, the diabetic rats
lowered their high blood sugar. The pumpkin extract didn't affect the blood
sugar of the rats that weren't diabetic.
The researchers also compared diabetic rats that ate the pumpkin extract for
a month with diabetic rats that didn't get the pumpkin extract.
Healthy, insulin-making pancreatic cells were more abundant in the diabetic
rats that ate the pumpkin extract than in the diabetic rats that never
consumed the pumpkin extract.
The pumpkin extract may help save some -- but not all -- of those
insulin-making pancreatic cells or revive diabetes-damaged pancreatic cells,
according to the researchers.
The pumpkin extract didn't affect the insulin-making pancreatic cells of
The study doesn't identify what chemical or chemicals in the pumpkin extract
may have been responsible for the results. Antioxidants in pumpkin may have
played a role, the scientists suggest.
- Pumpkin -- it’s not just for pie. What do you think
about this study? Talk about it on the Type 1 Diabetes Support Group