They ward off evil spirits on Halloween, their juice is much loved by Harry Potter and his wizard friends, and one turned into a golden carriage to take Cinderella to the ball. The mythical properties of pumpkins are well known but science suggests there is more to the pumpkin than folklore, magic and fairy tale.
Preliminary investigations by experts at The University of Nottingham have shown that pumpkin seeds possess medicinal properties that could help in the treatment of diabetes.
Dr Gary Adams, from the School of Health Sciences, is a wizard in diabetes health and therapeutics. He said: “There are many different types of insulins available to treat diabetes, but there are still physiological consequences for such use. Alternatives are, therefore, required and this includes herbal preparations as well as dietary plants in the form of curcubitaceae (pumpkin).”
Diabetes mellitus is a common, growing, serious, costly, and potentially preventable public health problem. Predications suggest that by 2030 the number of people with diabetes will go up from 117 million in 2000 to 366 million in 2030. The prevalence of diabetes will place a huge burden on health and financial structure of countries, and these will impact on individuals, as well as families and nations.
The materials within pumpkins such as the fruit pulp, oil from ungerminated seeds, and protein from germinated seeds have hypoglycemic properties. These biologically active ingredients — polysaccharides, para-aminobenzoic acid, vegetable oils, sterol, proteins, and peptides could assist in maintaining glycemic control.
Dr Adams said: “Preliminary investigation showed that the macromolecules in pumpkin seeds, such as Trigonelline (TRG), Nicotinic acid (NA), and Dchiro-inositol (DCI), possess hypoglycemic properties that these compounds may reduce disease risk.”
His latest research into the hypoglycemic effect of pumpkin seeds, has been carried out in collaboration with the School of Biosciences at The University of Nottingham and the Department of Food Engineering at Abant Izzet Baysal University in Turkey, where he is a Visiting Professor.
Extracting the goodness
Dr Adams said: “Our laboratory facility is responsible for the characterisation and interactions of large macromolecules of biomedical and industrial importance, which includes proteins, polysaccharides naturally found in cucurbits (pumpkins). Both the pulp — the soft flesh — and seeds of naturally sourced pumpkins are extracted from cucurbits and the components within these gourds are characterised/examined using specialised instruments in our laboratory. By using these instruments, we are able, in part, to determine the actual components that might be responsible for reducing blood sugar especially in patients presenting with diabetes.”
So as you prepare to celebrate that most Hallowed of Eves think carefully before discarding the pulp and seeds from your ‘Jack-o’-lantern’. Remember, this versatile winter vegetable could do more than ward off evil spirits
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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham has 43,000 students and is ‘the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with campuses in China and Malaysia modelled on a headquarters that is among the most attractive in Britain’ (Times Good University Guide 2014). It is also the most popular university in the UK among graduate employers, in the top 10 for student experience according to the Times Higher Education and one of the world’s greenest universities. It is ranked in the world’s top 1% of universities by the QS World University Rankings.
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