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Therapeutic Benefits of Commercially Available Gourd Family in Improvement and Sustainability of Human Health

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Abstract

Cucurbit family are a fruit producing plants with 130 genera and 800 species and it is one of the genetically discrete groups of food plants such as pumpkin, cucumber, squash, gourd and melon. Cucurbit family provide an important dietary fibre, β-carotene (pro-vitamin A), potassium and vitamin C. Consuming dietary fibre regularly can prevent diabetes mellitus, obesity and cardiovascular disease. Pumpkin (cucurbita maxima) is widely cooked as desserts in Malay cuisines. 60-80% content of polysaccharides in pumpkin pulp functions as anti-tumour, anti-diabetic, hypolipidemic, and immune-stimulating activities. Winter melon (Benincasa hispida) is a source of water soluble polysaccharides, vitamin C while the taste is pleasant, sub acid and aromatic juicy flesh; a great source of functional food production and can be stored up a year. Rockmelon (Cucumis melo L) has nutritional value namely carbohydrates, ascorbic acid, folic acid and potassium while the seeds are rich in oil and protein, and the compounds of this fruit are functioning to prevent cancer, fighting depression, dandruff, ulcers and stimulate the immune system. The red flesh of watermelon (Citrulus lanatus) has anti-carcinogenic compounds. Cucurbit fruits have blood glucose lowering properties and the active ingredient has been shown to be polysaccharides; able to modulate the immune system, anti-tumour, decrease inflammation and act as hypoglycaemic agent.
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International Journal of Engineering & Technology, 7 (3.7) (2018) 164-166
International Journal of Engineering & Technology
Website: www.sciencepubco.com/index.php/IJET
Research paper
Therapeutic Benefits of Commercially Available Gourd Family
in Improvement and Sustainability of Human Health
Saffanah Mohd Ab Azid1*, Wan Rosli Wan Ishak2*
Nutrition and Dietetics Programme, School of Health Sciences,
Universiti Sains Malaysia, Health Campus Kubang Kerian, 16150 Kelantan, Malaysia
*Corresponding author E-mail: wrosli@usm.my
Abstract
Cucurbit family are a fruit producing plants with 130 genera and 800 species and it is one of the genetically discrete groups of food
plants such as pumpkin, cucumber, squash, gourd and melon. Cucurbit family provide an important dietary fibre, β-carotene (pro-vitamin
A), potassium and vitamin C. Consuming dietary fibre regularly can prevent diabetes mellitus, obesity and cardiovascular disease.
Pumpkin (cucurbita maxima) is widely cooked as desserts in Malay cuisines. 60-80% content of polysaccharides in pumpkin pulp func-
tions as anti-tumour, anti-diabetic, hypolipidemic, and immune-stimulating activities. Winter melon (Benincasa hispida) is a source of
water soluble polysaccharides, vitamin C while the taste is pleasant, sub acid and aromatic juicy flesh; a great source of functional food
production and can be stored up a year. Rockmelon (Cucumis melo L) has nutritional value namely carbohydrates, ascorbic acid, folic
acid and potassium while the seeds are rich in oil and protein, and the compounds of this fruit are functioning to prevent cancer, fighting
depression, dandruff, ulcers and stimulate the immune system. The red flesh of watermelon (Citrulus lanatus) has anti-carcinogenic
compounds. Cucurbit fruits have blood glucose lowering properties and the active ingredient has been shown to be polysaccharides; able
to modulate the immune system, anti-tumour, decrease inflammation and act as hypoglycaemic agent.
Keywords: Benincasa hispida; Cucurbit; Dietary fiber; Polysaccharides; Pumpkin; Rock melon; Watermelon
1. Introduction
There are five sub families of Cucurbit; Fevillaeae, Melothrieae,
Cucurbitaceae, Sicyoideae, and Cylanthereae. The main cultivat-
ed generas namely Cucurbita L., Cucumis L., Citrullus L., Lage-
naria L., and Luffa L. The Luffa L. is found in the sub family Cu-
curbitaceae and Sechium L., found in the sub-family Sicyoideae.
These cultivated generas are different by genetic barriers and can
be analysed based on morphological characteristics [1]. The other
cucurbit plants for production are cucumber, melon, squash and
pumpkins.
Cucurbitaceae family is one of the most genetically discrete
groups of food plants and planted in areas with tropical regions [2].
Cucurbit characteristics are frost-sensitive, drought-tolerant, and
outraged to wet and poorly drained soils. Cucurbit fruits are
fleshy, edible and pericarp and the taste of this pericarp usually
sweet namely rock melon, water melon, honeydew, another one is
starchy which are gourds, pumpkins, and squashes [3]. Cucurbits
can be planted worldwide with approximately 130 genera and 800
species [4].
Cultivated cucurbits are varying in fruit characteristics although
those are similar in ground development and root habit such as,
summer squash are eaten during immature while watermelon dur-
ing mature. Squash-baked, cucumbers-pickled and eaten as salad,
watermelon-candied, while melon eaten as dessert. Seeds and
flowers of squash and pumpkin and chayote’s root are consumed
by humans. Apart from food purposes, bottle gourd had been used
for bottles, utensils, drinking containers, smoking pipes, musical
instruments, gourd craft decoration, masks and floats for fish nets;
the mature fibre from loofah fruit can be used as a sponge for
personal hygiene, filtration and household cleaning [5].
In China, cucurbita moshata has been used as a traditional medi-
cine and healthy food as they believed it is good for spleen and
lungs [6]. Cucurbits exhibit medicinal properties, traditional
medicine particularly the Chinese, and Ayurvedic systems uses
various parts of cucurbit including its seeds and flesh [4]. Tradi-
tional medicinal polysaccharides have been showed towards phys-
iological properties namely tumour growth inhibition, wound
healing, immunomodulation and hypoglycaemic effects [7]. Cu-
curbit family is between 200 plants to have blood glucose lower-
ing properties. Between several cucurbit extracts, its active ingre-
dients is polysaccharides as found in pumpkin [8] which interacts
with organisms that cause a change in biological activity. Polysac-
charides are able to modulate the immune system through the
stimulation of macrophages, an anti-tumour effects, decrease in-
flammation, hypoglycaemic agent [9]. Polysaccharides is a good
medicine as they are often eaten in the diet and unlikely to be
harmful to the patients [10].
Pumpkin (Cucurbita moschata)
The pumpkins in Malaysia are originated from species Cucur-
bita moschata and Cucurbita moschata duchesne. Among the
locals, they are known as labu manis and labu loceng. Labu lo-
ceng is available only in Kedah while labu manis is planted in
almost every states in Malaysia. The shape of labu manis is sphere
while labu loceng is like a bell. The colour of young fruit is green
International Journal of Engineering & Technology
165
and the mature is pale yellow. The storing of pumpkin is more
than 6 months if wax is not removed. It has water soluble vitamins
such as B1, B2, niacin and vitamin C, minerals namely potassium,
manganese, copper while seed has high vitamin E.
The content of Vitamin A is 8 µg/g16 µg/g and keeps increasing
after three months storage [11]. Pumpkin powder recorded 7.10%
protein, 3.10% fat, 1.80% moisture, 5.70% ash and 82.30% carbo-
hydrate, respectively (Md Nor, 2013).
Several bioactive molecules namely proteins, peptides, polysac-
charides, sterols and para-aminobenzoic acid are available in seeds,
flesh, and leaves [12]. Pumpkin pulp is rich in carbohydrate espe-
cially polysaccharides (60-80%) and functioning as anti-tumour,
anti-diabetic, hypolipidemic, and immune-stimulating activities
[13].
The polysaccharide extracted from C. moshata caused a signifi-
cant, non-competitive inhibition of α-glucosidase at concentrations
of 0.7-0.9 mg/mL tested in an enzymatic reaction [14]. In addition,
the powdered pumpkin has shown significant hypoglycaemic
properties in human type 2 diabetes sufferers due to the polysac-
charide components [15]. The functions of protein-bound poly-
saccharides are through lowering blood glucose concentrations,
increase serum insulin levels and improving glucose tolerance in
rats which have been treated with alloxan and destroys their β
cells and it induces diabetes.
However, this effect may have been due to the antioxidant nature
of the polysaccharide protecting the pancreatic β cells [16]. A
clinical study has been done towards 30 patients with Type II
Diabetes (T2DM), they were treated with polysaccharide granules
from pumpkin. From the result urination and blood tests, com-
pared to the control group, their condition were improved and this
showed that polysaccharides from pumpkin are capable in control-
ling glycaemia [17].
Winter melon (Benincasa hispida)
According to Index of Nutritional Quality (INQ), winter melon
is valued as a high quality vegetable [2]. This fruit is regularly
eaten by Chinese and Indian households due to its pleasant taste,
sub acid and aromatic juicy flesh. Winter melon has several names
such as Kundur (Malay), Bhuru Kolu or Safed Kolu (Gujarati),
Petha (Hindi), Kushamanda (Sanskrit), donggua (Chinese), Fak
kio (Thailand), Calabaza china or Calabaza blanca (Spanish),
Kondol (Philippines), and Bleego (Indonesian) while English
names; winter melon, ash gourd, ash pumpkin, white gourd, white
pumpkin, gourd melon, tallow gourd, wax gourd and Chinese
watermelon or Chinese preserving melon [18].
Winter Melon is originated from South-East Asia and has been
cultivated last 2000 years [2]. Several researches have been done
on the biologically active components of winter melon species and
its antioxidant activity works on different tissues which are liver
and brain [19]. Winter melon has vitamin C and riboflavin con-
tents, nutrients; organic acids, natural sugars, amino acids, vita-
mins and mineral elements [2]. Moreover, there is significant
amount of gallic acid present in it [20]. Winter melon is a source
of water-soluble polysaccharides, is known as arabinogalactans,
followed with alcohol insoluble residues from winter melon fruits
which contain high amounts of homogalacturonan [21].
Natural sugars that present are glucose and fructose; when the fruit
matured, the level of glucose reduced from 0.9% to 0.5%, while
fructose is 0.8% to 0.5% [22]. In China, India, Nepal, Cuba and
Southeast Asian regions, the mature winter melon fruits have been
added as additional ingredients in soup also in the preparations of
other dishes [18]. In Korea, winter melon is consumed to treat
diabetic complications [23]. Winter melon is anti-mercurial, anti-
dote for alcohol poisoning, laxative, diuretic and can cure internal
haemorrhages and constipation, anti-obesity, anti-inflammatory,
anti-diarrhoeal, anti-pyretic, anti-compulsive [24], anti-ulcer and
diuretic [2].
Therefore, Asian communities have been using winter melon fruit
for the treatment of ulcer, epilepsy, diabetic complications, hyper-
tension, nervous disorders and Alzheimer disease in their tradi-
tional medicinal system [25]. Winter melon oil extracted from
seeds is shown to be good for the brain and capable to cure syphi-
lis [26].
Rockmelon (Cucumis melo L.)
Rockmelon is a commercially important crop in some countries
and harvested in all temperate regions of the world due to its good
adaptation to soil and also climate [27]. Its family is found in tem-
perate region of Africa, Central Asia and Mediterranean [28].
Rock melon or also known as muskmelon is a popular fruit due to
its sweet, juicy flesh, pleasant aroma and eaten during summer
[27]. In Malaysia, rock melon is a well-known fruit especially
Golden Langkawi with striking golden yellow colour. Rock
melon is enriched with nutritional value such as carbohydrates;
water can be obtained from the fruit flesh while the seeds are rich
in oil and protein [29].
The natural sugars in rock melon are sucrose, glucose and fructose
[30]. Rock melon seeds contain 50% fat, 28% protein, 2-7% fibre,
3.6% ash and 8.2% carbohydrate [31]. Cucurbitacin-β, Li and Zn
are predominant compounds in rock melon which give function in
preventing cancers, fighting depression, dandruff, ulcers and stim-
ulating the immune system [32]. Rockmelon contain Vitamin C
which functions as a water soluble antioxidant in the human body,
keeping the immune system healthy by reducing cold, prevent
from bacterial infections and protect the human body from free
radical damage [33]. Although it has low fat, sodium, vitamin E,
folic acid, Fe and Ca; essential nutrients still can be found namely
potassium, β-carotene and vitamin C [32].
Watermelon (Citrulus lanatus)
There was 95.8% composition of moisture, 0.2g of protein, 0.2g of
fat, 3.3g of carbohydrate, 11g of calcium, 1mg of vitamin C and
16kcal of energy was present in this watery fruit [34]. In addition,
watermelon is a good source of Vitamin B, especially B1, B6 and
minerals; K and Mg. One hundred grams of watermelon provides
8.1mg of Vitamin C and 569 IU vitamin A, corresponding to
13.5% of the daily value (DV) for vitamin C and 11.38% of the
DV for vitamin A [35]. Essential fatty acids such as palmitic, stea-
ric, oleic, and linoleic of watermelon seeds constituted more than
80% fatty acids content of oil [36].
Urease, a rich source of enzyme can be found in watermelon seeds,
functions as a diuretic and helps in treating chronic or acute ecze-
ma [37]. In other watermelon part, the rind which contain vitamin
A, C, B6 and essential minerals such as Mg and K functions in
relaxing blood vessels and treating erectile dysfunction. Citrulline,
which is the non-protenious amino acid, has shown significant
antioxidant effect which prevents the body from free-radical dam-
age. During conversion to another amino acid, Arginine is re-
leased and it is important to protect heart, circulatory system and
immune system [38].
2. Conclusion
Cucurbit plants are consumed by human since ages due to their
healthy and medicinal uses and also the other parts of plants.
Carotene, protein and carbohydrate merely polysaccharides of
pumpkin reveal functions as anti-tumour, anti-diabetic, hypoli-
pidemic, and immune-stimulating activities. Winter melon is a
source of organic acids, natural sugars, amino acids, gallic acid,
arabinogalactans as water-soluble polysaccharides followed with
International Journal of Engineering & Technology
alcohol insoluble residues which contain high amounts of ho-
mogalacturonan while the natural sugars are glucose and fructose.
Compounds in rock melon namely cucurbitacin-β, Li, and Zn are
functioning in preventing cancers, fighting depression, dandruff,
ulcers and stimulating the immune system. Watermelon has nutri-
tional values through its carotene content; vitamin C and vitamin
A thus needed by human body to neutralise free radicals. Water-
melon has a good source of Vitamin B; B1 and B6, K and Mg
while palmitic acid, stearic acid, oleic acid, and linoleic acid can
be found in watermelon seeds. Soluble and insoluble fibres such
as cellulose, pectin and inulin can provide indirect benefits as
prebiotics. Therefore, there is necessitate to investigate the phar-
ma-nutritional properties among the gourd family as an alternative
functional food ingredients that capable to reduce severity of par-
ticular diseases.
Acknowledgement
Special thanks go to Universiti Sains Malaysia and FRGS grant
from Ministry of Higher Education of Malaysia.
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In this work, crude polysaccharide extracts were extracted from pumpkin (Cucurbita moschata) fruit by hot water. After removal of proteins and purification, polysaccharides of pumpkin fruit (PP1‐1) were subjected to structural identification. Gas chromatography analysis indicated that PP1‐1 comprised of galactose (86.4%), and glucose (13.6%). The molecular weight of PP1‐1 was measured to be 0.87 × 104 Da by gel permeation chromatography. The inhibitory kinetic evaluation showed that it was non‐competitive inhibition of PP1‐1 on the α‐glucosidase‐catalysed hydrolysis of PNPG. The Michaelis–Menten constant (K m) was 0.106 m, and the inhibitory constants (K i), 0.435 mg.
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Inhibitors of advanced glycation end-products formation and aldose reductase have been considered to be potential treatment of diabetic complications. This study investigated the abilities of polysaccharides extracted from pumpkin (PPs) to inhibit the formation of advanced glycation end-products and aldose reductase. The results showed that the inhibitory effects of PPs on the formation of advanced glycation end-products were higher than 50%, at 200 μg/ml, stronger than the positive control aminoguanidine, and the inhibitory effects of PPs on aldose reductase were higher than 58%, at 500 μg/ml, but not as potent as the positive control epalrestat. The result of this work suggests that pumpkin polysaccharides displayed therapeutic potential in the prevention and treatment of diabetic complications.