School of Life Sciences

Research on Fig Extract for Diabetes Treatment Among Journal’s Most Cited

Professor Shahidul Islam of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s School of Life Sciences (SLS) has been recognised for authoring one of the Top 10 most cited articles in the Journal of Food and Drug Analysis last year.

The article explored the effects of fig (Ficus carica) extract on enzyme activity in metabolic syndromes.

Islam, an expert in the field of type 2 diabetes and obesity, co-authored the paper with postdoctoral researcher Dr Ramgopal Mopuri; Professor Neil Koorbanally of the School of Chemistry and Physics at UKZN, and two collaborators from the Sri Venkateswara University in India. The paper focuses on the potential inhibitory effects of fruit ethanolic extract from F. carica against carbohydrates and lipid digesting enzymes activities, and suggests that the extract may contain agents that counter the onset of obesity, while being antioxidative and antidiabetic.

Obesity and diabetes are interrelated global health problems, which have increased recently, including in developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa. With the coexistence of diabetes and obesity affecting lifespan and quality of life around the world, and placing a burden on healthcare systems, many treatment methods are employed that include the inhibition of carbohydrate and lipid digesting enzymes to reduce the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates and lipids as well as to reduce blood glucose and body fat levels.

With phytochemicals produced by plants presenting a cost-effective alternative to modern drugs for the treatment of metabolic disorders such as diabetes and obesity, plants such as F. carica with their edible fruits and their medicinal properties such as antispasmodic, antitumor, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties, make them good candidates for investigation into the effectiveness of their phytochemicals to treat metabolic diseases.

The authors’ research shows that F. carica fruit ethanolic extract may be an alternative for the treatment of oxidative stress, type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Islam, a full professor in Biochemistry, is a member of South Africa’s National Health Laboratory Service Data Access and Ethics Committee, and has served on UKZN’s Animal Research Ethics Committee as a member and then as Chairperson for several years. Currently he is serving as an Academic Leader of the Biotechnology Cluster at the Westville campus of the School of Life Sciences. He has a C2 research rating from the National Research Foundation and more than 12 years’ teaching experience in Biochemistry and Metabolism.

Islam has published 10 book chapters and more than 130 full-length articles in international, peer-reviewed journals as well as serving on editorial boards for distinguished international journals. He was the recipient of the 2015 Distinguished Teachers’ Award from the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science, was among the Top 30 published researchers at UKZN in 2017, and has supervised more than 50 postgraduate students from honours through postdoctoral studies.

His research has been focused on the development of animal models of type 2 diabetes, antidiabetic intervention trials of various medicinal and functional foods, food supplements, artificial sweeteners, sugar substitutes, and medicinal plant extracts that could contribute to the development of novel drug development and food supplements for the better management of diabetes and obesity.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Supplied