Monk Fruit: More Than Just a Sweetener?

Among our choices of natural sweeteners, monk fruit is the clear winner: zero calories, no weight gain, clean taste without bitter aftertaste, and—because of its concentrated sweetness—can slash cost when combined with other natural sweeteners like erythritol. But there are  effects of this interesting non-caloric sweetener that go beyond its ability to just help us create healthy muffins or cookies. Scientific studies are now identifying important effects that may add to health.

Much of this research got underway because of monk fruit’s long history as an effective home remedy to relieve sore throat and cough. Research studies have documented an anti-inflammatory effect of monk fruit. But there are additional beneficial effects that have been identified, including reduced blood sugar, an antioxidant effect, blocking fat accumulation in fat cells, and anti-inflammatory effects. A number of studies have also pinpointed effects that reduce potential for cancer. To date, these observations have only been made in experimental models and not through any human trials, but those will be emerging near-future. A sample of the scientific observations that have been made are listed below.

In the meantime, enjoy your coffee sweetened with monk fruit, or cookies or pies in which sugar has been replaced by this clean-tasting, non-caloric sweetener. Perhaps you will also obtain some important health benefits from monk fruit, as well.Rest assured that research is underway!

Monk fruit is labeled Siraitia grosvenori or Momordica grosvenori in scientific studies. The active components of monk fruit are called mogrosides.

 

Diabetes

Experimental animal models suggest that monk fruit provides protection from developing diabetes and reduces blood sugar:

Qi XY, Chen WJ, Zhang LQ, Xie BJ.Mogrosides extract from Siraitia grosvenori scavenges free radicals in vitro and lowers oxidative stress, serum glucose, and lipid levels in alloxan-induced diabetic mice. Nutr Res. 2008 Apr;28(4):278-84.

Suzuki YA, Tomoda M, Murata Y, Inui H, Sugiura M, Nakano Y. Antidiabetic effect of long-term supplementation with Siraitia grosvenori on the spontaneously diabetic Goto-Kakizaki rat. Br. J. Nutr. 2007; 97: 770–5.

Suzuki YA, Murata Y, Inui H, Sugiura M, Nakano Y. Triterpene glycosides of Siraitia grosvenori inhibit rat intestinal maltase and suppress the rise in blood glucose level after a single oral administration of maltose in rats. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2005; 53: 2941–2946.


Weight
Monk fruit-derived mogrosides appear to block the cellular changes that lead to fat accumulation:

Harada N1, Ishihara M1, Horiuchi H1 et al. Mogrol derived from Siraitia grosvenorii mogrosides suppresses 3T3-L1 adipocyte differentiation by reducing cAMP-response element-binding protein phosphorylation and increasing AMP-activated protein kinase phosphorylation. PLoS One. 2016 Sep 1;11(9):e0162252.


Anti-oxidative effects

Monk fruit is an antioxidant, including blocking oxidation of LDL particles that can lead to heart disease:

Chen WJ, Wang J, Qi XY, Xie BJ. The antioxidant activities of natural sweeteners, mogrosides, from fruits of Siraitia grosvenori. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2007 Nov;58(7):548-56.

Takeo E1, Yoshida H, Tada N et al. Sweet elements of Siraitia grosvenori inhibit oxidative modification of low-density lipoprotein. J Atheroscler Thromb. 2002;9(2):114-20.

Wang M, Xing S, Luu T et al. The gastrointestinal tract metabolism and pharmacological activities of grosvenorine, a major and characteristic flavonoid in the fruits of Siraitia grosvenorii. Chem Biodivers. 2015 Nov;12(11):1652-64. doi: 10.1002/cbdv.201400397.


Anti-inflammatory effects

Monk fruit mogrosides are anti-inflammatory:

Di R, Huang MT, Ho CT.Anti-inflammatory activities of mogrosides from Momordica grosvenori in murine macrophages and a murine ear edema model. J Agric Food Chem. 2011 Jul 13;59(13):7474-81.

Shi D, Zheng M, Wang Y et al. Protective effects and mechanisms of mogroside V on LPS-induced acute lung injury in mice. Pharm Biol. 2014 Jun;52(6):729-34.

 

Cancer-preventive effects

Akihisa T, Hayakawa Y, Tokuda H et al.Cucurbitane glycosides from the fruits of Siraitia gros venorii and their inhibitory effects on Epstein-Barr virus activation. Nat Prod. 2007 May;70(5):783-8.

Liu C, Dai LH, Dou DQ et al. A natural food sweetener with anti-pancreatic cancer properties. Oncogenesis. 2016 Apr 11;5:e217.

Matsumoto S, Jin M, Dewa Y, Nishimura J et al. Suppressive effect of Siraitia grosvenorii extract on dicyclanil-promoted hepatocellular proliferative lesions in male mice. J Toxicol Sci. 2009 Feb;34(1):109-18.

Takasaki M, Konoshima T, Murata Y et al. Anticarcinogenic activity of natural sweeteners, cucurbitane glycosides, from Momordica grosvenori. Cancer Lett. 2003 Jul 30;198(1):37-42.

Ukiya M, Akihisa T, Tokuda H et al. Inhibitory effects of cucurbitane glycosides and other triterpenoids from the fruit of Momordica grosvenori on epstein-barr virus early antigen induced by tumor promoter 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate. J Agric Food Chem. 2002 Nov 6;50(23):6710-5.

 

Safety

Marone PA, Borzelleca JF, Merkel D et al. Twenty eight-day dietary toxicity study of Luo Han fruit concentrate in Hsd:SD rats. Food Chem Toxicol. 2008 Mar;46(3):910-9.

Pawar RS, Krynitsky AJ, Rader JI. Sweeteners from plants--with emphasis on Stevia rebaudiana (Bertoni) and Siraitia grosvenorii (Swingle). Anal Bioanal Chem. 2013 May;405(13):4397-407.