Hunt on for the perfect karela
Original article from Deccan Chronicle
November 18, 2011
The humble karela, or Indian bitter gourd, is now the focus of global research with scientists racking their brains to find out the ideal variety that could beat diabetes.
International teams from India, Tanzania and Thailand are busy unraveling the chemical mystery of the karela to find out whether grandma was right in her belief that karela fights diabetes.
Hyderabad has been selected for ‘Project Bitter Gourd’ as it has emerged as the diabetes capital of the country. Moreover, India has the highest rate of diabetes in the world.
Over the years, the karela has lost much of its anti-diabetes properties thanks to commercial hybrids, wh-ich have brought down the bitterness and pungency of the vegetable. The present search is for the ideal kare-la that was part of grandma’s original Indian recipe.
As many as 10 hybrids of the Indian bitter gourd are being studied for their germplasm and chemical constituents, particularly momordicin, in Hyderabad, Bangkok and Arusha in Tanzania. The higher the content of momordicin, the higher is the anti-diabetes effect.
The teams are also finding out if the anti-diabetes co-mpounds present in bitter gourd could be increased to make it more effective. They will suggest bitter gourd recipes that will keep the momordicin content intact. After the study, an ideal bitter gourd variety will be identified.
The research gains significance as no two bitter gourd varieties have the same chemical constitution and anti-diabetes properties. Different bitter gourd varieties have different levels of bioactive compounds. Identifying the proper bitter gourd is important to keep diabetes away.
Along with the Indian hybrids, 10 hybrids from Thailand are also included in Project Bitter Gourd that is sponsored by the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Centre.
“We are screening germ-plasm and commercial lines to identify and select suitable parents for our breeding programme, a senior scientist associated with the project said. “We will be selecting varieties high in anti-diabetic compounds as well as those with good horticultural traits,” he added.
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