‘Plant insulin’ from bitter melon backed for fight against diabetes

By Nathan GRAY

- Last updated on GMT

The Insumate bitter melon compound shows 'significant results in reducing blood sugar level'.
The Insumate bitter melon compound shows 'significant results in reducing blood sugar level'.

Related tags: Insulin, Diabetes mellitus

A commercially available ingredient containing bitter melon peptides could help manage blood sugar by binding to insulin receptors, say researchers.

New research has suggested that the patent-protected ingredient, known as mcIRBP-19 and commercially as Insumate, can stabilise blood sugar levels by binding directly to to insulin receptors.

Published in the journal Food Chemistry​, the study reports that a 68-residue insulin receptor (IR)-binding protein isolated from bitter melon (Momordica charantia​) and commercialised by Taiwanese firm Greenyn Biotechnologies has the potential to stabilise blood sugar levels and improve glucose metabolism.

According to Greenyn, the Insumate bitter melon compound is the only bitter peptide on the market “to show significant results in reducing blood sugar level and fight against diabetes in a safe way.”

They added that the ingredient – which is patent-protected in nine regions including the USA, the UK, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, France, Japan and Taiwan – is designed so that is can be utilised either as an individual supplement or packaged as functional ingredient component in a multi-ingredient supplement or functional food product.

Plant-based diabetes management?

The team noted that insulin receptors (IR) play an important role in the management of blood sugar levels in the body. The vital receptors bind insulin to activate a series of metabolic pathways that increase glucose storage and lower levels of circulating blood sugar.

Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for approximately 95% of all cases of diabetes, is largely associated with insulin resistance as a result of unhealthy lifestyles that lead to obesity and metabolic syndrome.

“Although many drugs and nutraceuticals are used for diabetes, insulin is the only medicine for the treatment of type 1 diabetes as of today. Insulin is also the only drug that triggers insulin signalling pathway via binding to insulin receptor,”​ the team noted – adding that others drugs and nutraceuticals are generally aimed at enhancing activities of IR.

“We identified that mcIRBP-19 was a putative IR-binding and blood glucose-lowering bioactive peptide motif with a β-hairpin structure,”​ the Chinese-led research team said – noting that the bitter melon compound activated the kinase activity of IR, stimulated the downstream signaling transduction pathways, enhanced the expression of GLUT4, and increased the glucose uptake in 3T3-L1 cells and the glucose clearance in diabetic mice. 

“We have demonstrated that Insumate stimulates the insulin signalling pathway and displays a hypoglycemic effect by binding to IR,” ​they said.

A Greenyn spokesperson added that effective health supplements could extend the effort to support effective glucose metabolism and return to normal blood values – noting that the new study showed that its ingredient can reduce acute glucose accumulation by 53% in the two hours following food consumption.

They added that the study also hinted that frequent consumption of the ingredient could help to stabilise insulin and fasting plasma glucose, and also improve glycated haemoglobin.

Source: Food Chemistry
Volume 204, 1 Pages 298–305, doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2016.02.135
“Identification of the bioactive and consensus peptide motif from Momordica charantia insulin receptor-binding protein”
Authors: Hsin-Yi Lo, et al

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