July 9, 2007

Pumpkin extract regenerates pancreatic cells in rats

In the July, 2007 issue of the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, Tao Xia of East China Normal University, and and Qin Wang of Shanghai Jiaotong University, in Shanghai, China reported their discovery that diabetic rats fed an extract of pumpkin had lower blood glucose, increased plasma insulin, and reduced pancreatic lipid peroxidation compared with diabetics that did not receive the extract. Additionally, pumpkin was found to stimulate the regeneration of pancreatic beta-cells responsible for making insulin.

Doctors Xia and Wang divided 12 diabetic rats to receive a diet supplemented with or without pumpkin extract for 30 days. An additional group of 12 healthy, nondiabetic rats were similarly divided and treated. At the end of the study, untreated diabetic rats had lower insulin and higher glucose levels than the healthy controls, however, treatment of the diabetic animals with pumpkin extract significantly elevated insulin, thereby lowering glucose levels. Lipid peroxidation was found to be markedly lowered in the pancreases of diabetic rats that received pumpkin compared with untreated diabetics, and they had just 8 percent fewer beta-cells than healthy animals.

The protective effect of the extract may be due to pumpkin's antioxidants and the presence of D-chiro-inositol, which mediates insulin activity. By boosting insulin levels and lowering blood sugar levels, oxidative damage to beta cells is further reduced which allows for some regeneration. The researchers hope that pumpkin could be useful to treat both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

"The main finding is that feeding pumpkin extract prevents the progressive destruction of pancreatic beta cells," stated David Bender who is sub-dean at the Royal Free and University College Medical School in London. I think the exciting thing is that this may be a source of medicine to take by mouth (rather than injections)."