I just read a recent (January 2013) news story that claims that "Pumpkin Can Help Heal Diabetes." The author of this news story states that "Pumpkin has proven to heal the pancreatic tissues of diabetic rats. So, we can certainly hope that pumpkin will cure diabetes in humans at some point of time." As far as I can tell, this wishful thinking is entirely based on a 2007 publication, Hypoglycaemic role of Cucurbita ficifolia (Cucurbitaceae) fruit extract in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. In this study, rat researchers found that giving a fruit extract from Asian pumpkins (which are not the same as the orange fellow with big smiles that are seen in the United States around Halloween) can reduce hyperglycemia and increase insulin levels in diabetic rats.
According to one commentary about the pumpkin publication, the researchers "bought whole, mature Asian pumpkins popularly called shark fin melon or Siam pumpkin at a Shanghai market. Those pumpkins don’t look like the orange pumpkins common in the United States. Instead, they’ve got a green and white rind. The researchers took the pumpkins back to their lab, removed the seeds, dried the fruit, and concocted a pumpkin extract."
By the way, the rats used in the study did NOT have type 1 diabetes (T1D) as is misstated in several of the wild-eyed press reports about the study. As most of us people with diabetes (PWD) know, T1D is an autoimmune disorder. But this study used rats that were made diabetic by destroying their pancreases with a frequently-used chemical called streptozotocin (STZ for short). Not the same thing as autoimmune diabetes.
It’s truly amazing that misinformation such as this ricochets around the Internet for years. But on the other hand, there’s some good news: pumpkins are fine for PWD to eat. See for instance, ADA’s webpages I found during a Google search:
So, you can enjoy your pumpkins - just don’t expect them to cure your diabetes.
Physician who is living with diabetes; editor of www.D-is-for-Diabetes.com