Plant foods in the management of diabetes mellitus: vegetables as potential hypoglycaemic agents.


Platel K, Srinivasan K






Vegetables are among the numerous plant adjuncts tried for the treatment of diabetes mellitus. A few vegetables that are commonly consumed in India have been claimed to possess antidiabetic potency. In recent years, there has been a renewed interest to screen such plant food materials, for a possible beneficial use. Considerable amount of work has been carried out in this regard with bitter gourd (Momordica charantia) and ivy gourd (Coccinia indica) both in experimental animals and human diabetic subjects. Majority of these studies have documented the beneficial effect of the fruit of bitter gourd and leaf of ivy gourd when administered orally as a single dose. The hypoglycaemic influence is claimed to be mediated through an insulin secretagogue effect or through an influence on enzymes involved in glucose metabolism. The limited number of studies on other vegetables such as cabbage (Brassica oleracia), green leafy vegetables, beans and tubers have shown the beneficial hypoglycaemic influence in both experimental animals and humans. There is scope for more extensive research in this area, especially to examine the long term beneficial effect of dietary vegetables, to identify the active principle, and to understand the mechanism of action, which is at present unclear. Since diet forms the mainstay in the management of diabetes mellitus, there is scope for exploiting the antidiabetic potency of vegetables to the maximum extent. Such plant food adjuncts possessing hypoglycaemic activity appear to hold promise as potential antidiabetic agents.