When monk fruit is fresh, the skin is green. Once the fruit is dried, however, the skin becomes brown. With that, monk fruit is said to have an extremely sweet taste.
Evidence suggests the monks began using the fruit during the 13th century. From then, monk fruit was widely used in medical terms.
Due to its low-calorie content, the herb is also used as a sugar alternative in beverages. Throughout its period of usage, monk fruit has been reported to have various healthful properties.
Health Benefits of Monk Fruit
In addition, some of the properties are backed by research. Here are numerous health benefits of monk fruit.
1. Safe for Diabetes Patients
In broad terms, monk fruit is considered safe for diabetes patients. In diabetes patients, blood glucose levels are abnormally high. Since it is non-glycemic and contains very few calories, it is unlikely to cause a spike in blood glucose.
Several studies suggest some monk fruit effects are due to active components in the fruit called mogrosides. In one 2009 study, mogroside V alone is shown to stimulate insulin secretion from pancreatic beta cells.
These effects are also shown in a 2008 study with alloxan-induced diabetic mice, who were supplemented with mogrosides for four weeks.
Researchers saw a reduction in levels of total cholesterol, hepatic malondialdehyde, triglycerides, and glucose. A review for the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition suggests mogrosides can act as antioxidants.
It is revealed mogroside V, along with 11-oxo mogroside V, demonstrated protective effects against DNA oxidative damage in a study. According to further research, DNA oxidative damage may play a role in diabetes.
2. Suitable for The Ketogenic Diet
Monk fruits are also suitable for the ketogenic diet, which allows the body to transition into ketosis. The ketogenic diet is high in fat while low in net carbohydrates.
The body normally uses carbohydrates, which are converted into glucose then transferred into the blood, for energy. The pancreas then secretes insulin, which helps the glucose into cells for energy.
When an individual’s carbohydrate consumption is low, such as when they follow the ketogenic diet, their body will start to burn fat instead. As a response, ketone bodies are released.
Monk fruits are reported to contain zero net carbohydrates. Thus, they will not contribute to the production of any glucose in the blood.
In addition, monk fruit may help with sugar cravings. It is not uncommon for sugar cravings to occur with going on the ketogenic diet. Monk fruit itself is very sweet. In fact, it is widely reported monk fruit is 250 times sweeter than refined sugar.
However, monk fruit and its sweetener are typically considered appropriate as a replacement for sugar for individuals on the ketogenic diet. Monk fruit may also help ease fatigue, another side effect of the ketogenic diet.
3. Improves Liver Function
A 2018 study shows the mogrosides of monk fruit have fat-burning properties in cases of mice with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, the settlement of excess fat in the liver. Compared to the control group, LH-treated mice had less fat in the liver.
Mogrosides also contributed to increased activation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). Research suggests this mechanism has suppressant effects on the progression of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
An additional study from 2017 reveals mogroside IVE helped improved liver function in mice with hepatic fibrosis, which refers to the ongoing formation of scar tissues in the liver.
In the study, mogroside IVE decreased levels of carbon tetrachloride and activity of the myeloperoxidase enzyme.
Researchers also saw a reduction in hypoxia-inducible factor-1 and transforming growth factor-β1, also thought to contribute to the development of hepatic fibrosis.
4. Lowers Cholesterol and Triglycerides
Monk fruit also lowers cholesterol and triglycerides. High cholesterol and triglycerides can increase an individual’s risk for medical conditions such as heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and stroke.
It is widely believed hyperglycemia, high blood sugar, contributes to elevated levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides.
In a 2007 review, it is revealed a fruit extract decreased total cholesterol and triglyceride levels during a trial involving rabbits with diabetes. A 2016 study found mogrol, a byproduct of mogrosides, helped suppress accumulation of triglycerides.
This effect may have been due to AMP-activated protein kinase activation. AMPK is suggested to have inhibitory effects on the glycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferase enzyme, which plays a role in triglyceride accumulation.
AMPK is also suggested to decrease cholesterol levels by blocking the activity of the 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase enzyme.
5. Promotes Healthy Weight Management
Like many other plant-based foods, monk fruit promotes healthy weight management. Concerning the fruit’s anti-obesity properties, however, they are not well understood.
It could be related to the fruit’s activation effects on AMP-activated protein kinase as the enzyme is believed to play a role in metabolism.
In addition, AMPK may contribute to appetite regulation. With that, the mogrosides of monk fruit are demonstrated to inhibit inflammation, which is broadly linked to weight gain.
The fruit’s weight loss effects are supported by a 2012 review for the African Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology.
The review details a study involving mice on a high-fat diet. It is revealed the supplementation of mogrosides V and IV prevented further progression of weight gain in the mice.