Pumpkin Has Prebiotics and Benefits Diabetes and Cancer

Pumpkin has prebiotics and other beneficial plant compounds that make it a rising star in investigations for diabetes and other inflammatory conditions. The dried pulp is being considered in the treatment of diabetes. It definitely has more uses than just jack-o-lanterns and pumpkin pie! Some researchers recommend pumpkin for daily consumption.

Pumpkin is a member of the Cucurbita pepo species, the group of squashes commonly known as summer and winter squashes.

Pumpkin is predominantly complex carbohydrate, with very little protein and fat. It is a fantastic source of carotenoids, which are antioxidants and vitamin A precursors. The main carotenoid is beta-carotene, but lutein, lycopene, alpha-carotene and cis-beta-carotene have also been found. Pumpkin contains minerals such as potassium, sodium, calcium (20-40 mg/0.5 cup) and magnesium.

Pumpkin Has Prebiotics

Pumpkin contains approximately 3 g of fiber per 0.5 cup.  Pumpkin has prebiotics that make it suitable for use in the development of a fermented pumpkin-based water kefir beverage, which has abundant Lactobacillus bacteria. It is also used as a fermentation substrate in wines and beer. Pumpkin has prebiotics such as xylitol and complex polysaccharides, which are broken down distribute into monosaccharides such as mannose, glucose, xylose, fucose, and ribose, among others.  As previously mentioned, it also has carotenoids, some of which have prebiotic effects.

Pumpkin has prebiotics to help beneficial microbes populate, but its extracts also have antibacterial, antifungal, and antiparasitic properties against pathogenic bacteria, fungi, and Giardia.

Pumpkin Has Diabetic and Anti-Cancer Effects

Investigations have found that pumpkin has many beneficial compounds for health:

  • Anti-Diabetic Effects: Pumpkin crude extract from pumpkin powder was tested in a diabetic mouse model. The diabetic mice were treated with pumpkin extracts by intraperitoneal injection at dosages of 100, 200 and 400 mg/kg body weight. The results showed that the blood glucose levels in the diabetic mice were significantly reduced.
  • Anti-Diabetic Effects: Pumpkin polysaccharides protected pancreatic islet cells in vitro from injury from streptozotocin by increasing levels of super-oxide dismutase, decreasing malondialdehyde, and reducing the production of nitric oxide. Insulin-producing beta cells are a type of pancreatic islet cell.
  • Anti-Diabetic Effects: The complex carbs in pumpkin reduced blood glucose levels and improved glucose tolerance when injected intraperitoneally into alloxan-induced diabetic rats.
  • Anti-Diabetic Effects: In a study of diabetic, critically-ill patients in ICU, 5 grams of freeze-dried powder of a type of winter squash similar to pumpkin, twice per day for 3 days, quickly decreased high blood glucose levels. This was significant because hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) frequently occurs in diabetics after critical illness or injury.
  • Anti-Diabetic Effects: In a rat model of streptozotocin-induced diabetes, rats were fed a high-fat diet. Pumpkin polysaccharides and acid hydrolysates distinctly reduced fasting blood glucose level, prevented weight loss normally experienced by streptozotocin-treated rats, and enhanced the activities of the catalase and glutathione reductase, two antioxidant enzymes, and increased GSH while decreasing malondialdehyde. The hydrolysate caused an improvement to glucose stimulated GLP-1 secretion.
  • Anti-Diabetic Effects: In a high-fat diet mouse model of streptozotocin-induced diabetes, pumpkin polysaccharides ameliorated blood glucose tolerance and insulin resistance, lowered total cholesterol, triglycerides, and low-density lipoprotein levels, and improved high-density lipoprotein levels. The polysaccharides also showed antioxidant activity by decreasing reactive oxygen species and malondialdehyde levels, while increasing glutathione and superoxide dismutase levels. The nuclear factor E2 related factor 2 (Nrf2), heme oxygenase-1, and phosphoinositide-3-kinase (PI3K) levels were upregulated.
  • Anti-Cancer Effects: Ethanolic extracts of dried pumpkin contained cucurbitaglycosides, which have antiproliferative and antitumor effects in vitro  in breast, colon, brain, prostate and lung cancer cells.

Pumpkin Is A Rising SuperStar

Pumpkin has prebiotics and other beneficial compounds. The seeds and leaves also have medicinal qualities. It is no wonder why pumpkin is used in traditional medicine in many places around the world!

Pumpkin has prebiotics that will benefit your gut microbiome, so include it in your diet more often than just holidays. If you are going to use it, skip the pumpkin pie filling, which has sugars and numerous other additives. Use plain fresh pumpkin puree or organic canned pumpkin instead.

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  • X. Chen et al. “Synergistic Hypoglycemic Effects of Pumpkin Polysaccharides and Puerarin on Type II Diabetes Mellitus Mice,” Molecules 24.5 (2019).
  • R.M.P. Gutierrez. “Review of Cucurbita pepo (Pumpkin) its Phytochemistry and Pharmacology,”  Med Chem 6 (2016): 12-21.
  • H. Jin et al. “Studies on the extraction of pumpkin components and their biological effects on blood glucose of diabetic mice” Journal of Food and Drug Analysis 21.2 (2013): 184-189.
  • A. Lu et al. “Preparation of the controlled acid hydrolysates from pumpkin polysaccharides and their antioxidant and antidiabetic evaluation,” Int J Biol Macromol 121 (2019): 261-269.
  • A Mahmoodpoor et al. "Effect of Cucurbita Maxima on Control of Blood Glucose in Diabetic Critically Ill Patients," Adv Pharm Bull 8.2 (2018): 347-351.
  • S. Wang et al. “Extraction and purification of pumpkin polysaccharides and their hypoglycemic effect,” Int J Biol Macromol 98 (2017): 182-187.
  • H.Y. Zhu et al. “Characterization of pumpkin polysaccharides and protective effects on streptozotocin-damaged islet cells,” Chin J Nat Med 13.3 (2015): 199-207.

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