Pumpkin a day

By Megha Prakash
Published: Friday 31 October 2008

-- Keeps ulcer at bay

people suffering from stomach ulcers may now look for a cure in their kitchen garden. Scientists at the S N Pradhan Centre for Neurosciences, University of Calcutta, say pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo) has medicinal properties that protect against peptic ulcers.

Excessive acid secretion often damages mucosal lining of the digestive tract, particularly of stomach and duodenum, resulting in ulcers. Drugs used to treat the ailment are considered the best sellers in the market.

Various systems of traditional medicine claim the use of pumpkin seeds and pulp for treating liver and gastric disorders like inflammation and dyspepsia. The vegetable is also rich in vitamins A, B, C and E and its anti-oxidant property is well established.

Debjani Guha and her colleagues tried to find out how these protective properties of pumpkin also help increase the defensive mechanism of mucosal lining and heal ulcerated tissues. To evaluate the properties, the team tried ripe pumpkin pulp extract on rats. The scientists fed them with the extract for 14 days and then gave aspirin to induce ulcer. The stomach lining of the rats that fed on pumpkin pulp extract showed fewer ulcers. The team observed that the extract triggered the activity of alkaline phosphatase--a key enzyme in the mucosal lining that slows down in the presence of ulcer-inducing chemicals. The scientists also reported less acid secretion in the digestive tract and thickening of the mucosal lining in the Indian Journal of Experimental Biology (volume 46) in September.

"To treat peptic ulcers, we prescribe acid suppressant drugs to patients, with supplements of vitamins A, B and C. Any drug or food product that helps in thickening of the mucosal lining may help in healing ulcers," said G C Singhal, former physician at Ram Manohar Lohia hospital, New Delhi.

The findings are important, said Guha, because a widely consumed vegetable like pumpkin has been found effective in protecting from a common ailment like ulcer.

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