All foods containing carbohydrates raise blood sugar, pumpkin included. But when it comes to diabetes, things are not quite what they seem. On the one hand, the carbohydrates in pumpkin are readily digestible which means they raise blood sugar fast, making the fruit high glycemic. On the other hand, animal studies have shown pumpkin has hypoglycemic effects in addition to containing elements that improve tolerance to glucose and increase insulin levels in blood serum for better glucose metabolism.
Which makes pumpkin both good and bad for diabetes blood sugar. The key, as researchers see it, lies in moderation. Despite its readily digestible carbohydrates which make blood sugar go up fast, pumpkin continues to produce beneficial effects in the form of improved glucose tolerance and benefits for insulin metabolism. By limiting intake to small amounts, diabetics can continue to eat pumpkin and do so safely while enjoying all the benefits it has to offer, whether aimed at the metabolic condition or other aspects of general health.
Yes, eating pumpkin makes your blood sugar go up. Which is not necessarily a bad thing as long as it doesn’t go up too much. The carbohydrates in pumpkin are digested really fast which means the sugar obtained from them passes into the bloodstream and raises blood sugar levels quickly. Fortunately, pumpkin has a low carbohydrate content (6.5 g of carbs/100 g of raw pumpkin). If you eat small amounts at once, the rise is not significant enough to produce major side effects. Only if you eat too much at once does it cause problems with diabetes.
And while the side effects are avoidable, the benefits are not, even with a limited intake. There is increasingly more research attesting to the anti-diabetic properties of pumpkin and encouraging its consumption by diabetics (in moderation, of course). All of the anti-diabetic activity of the orange culinary vegetable builds up towards a single goal: better blood sugar control.
1) Low glycemic load (3-4). Which basically refers to how little a serving of pumpkin is likely to affect blood sugar levels in diabetics. With a low glycemic load of 3-4, a small serving of about 100 g has minimal effects on blood sugar metabolism which allows for better control over it. The bigger the serving, the more pregnant the effects.
2) Hypoglycemic effects. Studies show it is actually possible for pumpkin to lower blood sugar levels. According to research, the components responsible for reduced blood glucose levels are protein-bound polysaccharides in pumpkin and pumpkin extract.
1) Medicinal plants with hypoglycaemic activity (1989) by Atta-Ur-Rahman ZK.
2) Mexican plants with hypoglycaemic effect used in the treatment of diabetes (2005) (99, 325-348) by Andrade-Cetto A, Heinrich M.
3) Antihyperglycemic effect of Cucurbita ficifolia fruit extract in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats (2006) (published in Fitoterapia 77, 530–533) by Xia T and Wang Q.
4) Medicinal and biological potential of pumpkin: an updated review (published in Nutritional Research Review 23 (2): 184-90) by Mukesh Yadav, Shalini Jain, Radha Tomar, G. B. K. S. Prasad and Hariom Yadav.
3) Increase in insulin secretion, serum levels and better insulin sensitivity. A compound in pumpkin called D-chiro-Inositol appears to boost insulin secretion by the pancreas, improve insulin sensitivity and increase blood serum levels of the pancreatic hormone. This has direct and beneficial effects on blood glucose metabolism, helping lower high blood sugar levels.
4) Better glucose tolerance. Protein-bound polysaccharides from pumpkin actively help lower blood sugar levels in both diabetics and non-diabetics. Furthermore, by regulating insulin production and presence in blood serum, protein-bound polysaccharides improve glucose tolerance.
Source: Effects of protein-bound polysaccharide isolated from pumpkin on insulin in diabetic rats (2005) published in Plant Food Hum Nutr 60, 13–16 by Quanhong LI, Caili F, Yukui R, et al.
Note: It’s important to understand that while in vitro and animal studies attest to the anti-diabetic properties of pumpkin, the exact mechanism of action of the components that drive such biological activities is not yet fully understood. As such, no recommendations can be made for a specific intake of the culinary vegetable that could drive palpable anti-diabetes effects in type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
Not to mention that caution is required as a too high an intake can offset potential benefits through an excess of carbohydrates. So while there are anti-diabetic benefits to eating pumpkin, intake is best kept low (small servings) so as to not exceed dietary recommendations for carbohydrate intake per day and per meal and risk raising blood sugar levels.