Maria Isabel Layson is a 16-year-old student from the Philippines who recently participated in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Phoenix, Arizona. Her presentation was on a tropical plant that is commonly found in her country called aratiles. She believes that it has the potential for being an effective cure for Type 2 diabetes.
The idea of researching a cure for diabetes came naturally for Layson as many of her family members have the disease. She noticed that although many scientists have studied aratiles, none of them seriously looked into the full potential of the plant.
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Layson’s research at the Food and Nutrition Research Institute Laboratory in Manila showed that the fruit of the aratiles plant was so rich in antioxidants that it could be used to prevent Type 2 diabetes. The fruit was found to be rich in bioactive compounds like flavonoids, anthocyanins, and polyphenols. Though her presentation did not win an award at the ISEF competition, it did gain attention due to its relevance to current health challenges.
However, Layson is not worried that she didn’t win at the competition. “You don’t join research competitions just because you want to win… You must have a goal: After this competition, I want to help this kind of population,” she said in an interview with Gokongwei Brothers Foundation.
Type 2 diabetes treatment
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), routine screening for Type 2 diabetes should be scheduled once a person reaches 45 years of age, especially if they are overweight. Those who suffer from the condition experience fatigue, excessive thirst, weight loss, dark discoloration in some parts of their bodies, blurry vision, and slowed healing of infections. People with Type 2 diabetes need to constantly monitor their blood sugar levels and use insulin and other medications when necessary.
There are three main lifestyle changes a person needs to make — get rid of any excess weight, start exercising, and eat a healthy diet. Of these three, weight loss is the number one priority. A study conducted in 2011 found that 11 participants with Type 2 diabetes ended up reversing their condition at the end of 8 weeks by cutting down their calorie consumption during this period.
For diet, the ADA recommends a low-carbohydrate one. The lack of carbs forces the body to break down stored fat, which not only results in speedy weight loss, but is also beneficial for blood glucose control. An ideal diet should be a mix of healthy fats, whole grains, fruits, veggies, and lean proteins. It is recommended to drink as little alcohol as possible and even consider giving it up completely. Keep your sweet tooth in check and only eat sweets when you feel it is absolutely necessary.
For people who are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and have a body mass index (BMI) greater than 35, bariatric surgery may be recommended. This is basically a weight loss surgery that bypasses a portion of the small intestine. Post-surgery, people experience significant improvements in their blood sugar levels, as well as their diabetes condition. On the downside, bariatric surgery does come with possible side effects, like osteoporosis and nutritional deficiency.