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Momordica cochinchinensis is a Southeast Asian fruit found throughout the region from Southern China to Northeastern Australia, mostly Vietnam.


It is commonly known as gac, from the Vietnamese gấc (pronounced [ɣək˦˥]) or quả gấc (quả being a classifier for spherical objects such as fruit). It is known as mùbiēguǒ (木鳖果) in Chinese, and variously as Baby Jackfruit, Spiny Bitter Gourd, Sweet Gourd, or Cochinchin Gourd in English.


Because it has a relatively short harvest season (which peaks in December and January), making it less abundant than other foods, gac is typically served at ceremonial or festive occasions in Vietnam, such as Tết (the Vietnamese new year) and weddings. It is most commonly prepared as a dish called xôi gấc, in which the aril and seeds of the fruit are cooked in glutinous rice, imparting both their color and flavor. More recently, the fruit has begun to be marketed outside of Asia in the form of juice dietary supplements because of its allegedly high phytonutrient content.


Gac grows on dioecious vines and is usually collected from fence climbers or from wild plants. The vines can be commonly seen growing on lattices at the entrances to rural homes or in gardens. It only fruits once a year, and is found seasonally in local markets. The fruit itself becomes a dark orange color upon ripening, and is typically round or oblong, maturing to a size of about 13 cm in length and 10 cm in diameter. Its exterior skin is covered in small spines while its dark red interior consists of clusters of fleshy pulp and seeds.

Traditional uses

Traditionally, gac has been used as both food and medicine in the regions in which it grows. Other than the use of its fruit and leaves for special Vietnamese culinary dishes, gac is also used for its medicinal and nutritional properties. In Vietnam, the seed membranes are said to aid in the relief of dry eyes, as well as to promote healthy vision.[citation needed] Similarly, in traditional Chinese medicine the seeds of gac, known in Mandarin Chinese as mùbiēzǐ (Chinese: 木鳖子), are employed for a variety of internal and external purposes.[citation needed]

Nutritional content

Recently, attention has been attracted to gac in the West because chemical analysis of the fruit suggests it has high concentrations of several important phytonutrients.

The fruit contains by far the highest content of beta-carotene (vitamin A) of any known fruit or vegetable.[citation needed] Research has confirmed that the beta-carotene in the fruit is highly bioavailable. In a double-blind study with 185 children, some were given a dish containing 3.5 mg beta-carotene from spiny bitter gourd, while others were given an identical-looking dish containing 5 mg beta-carotene powder. After 30 days, the former group eating natural beta-carotene had significantly greater plasma (blood) levels of beta-carotene than the latter with synthetic beta-carotene.[1][dead link] This oil also included high levels of vitamin E.[2] The fatty acids in the aril[3] are important for the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients, including carotenoids, in a diet typically low in fat.

Due to its high content of beta-carotene and lycopene,[3] gac is often sold as a food supplement in soft capsules.

Chemical constituents

Gac has been shown to be especially high in lycopene content. Relative to mass, it contains up to 70 times the amount of lycopene found in tomatoes.[4] It has also been found to contain up to 10 times the amount of beta-carotene of carrots or sweet potatoes.[4] Additionally, the carotenoids present in gac are bound to long-chain fatty acids, resulting in what is claimed to be a more bioavailable form.[1] There has also been recent research that suggests that gac contains a protein that may inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells.[5]

Two cyclotides have been isolated from Momordica cochinchinensis These cyclotides, MCoT-I and MCoT-II, inhibit trypsin.[6]

Written on September 4th, 2012 , Fruits Tags:

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