A high school student in the Philippines discovered that the Jamaican cherry, locally known as
Maria Isabel Layson, 16, noted that the often neglected aratiles (Muntingia calabura) grew abundantly near their home in Iloilo.
“Nobody pays attention to the fruit and its medicinal properties. They don’t realize that it has the potential for becoming a regulator of diabetes,” Layson was quoted by ABS-CBN as saying.
The plant, which is native to tropical America, has been introduced in Southeast Asia and naturalized there and in other tropical parts of the world.
According to the young scientist, the aratiles fruit contains bioactive compounds such as anthocyanin, flavonoid and polyphenol, components which may be useful as a cure for diabetes.
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“Actually, the results of the study on muntingia calabura or the sarisa, it does contain anti-diabetic properties and it is very rich in antioxidants,” she said.
Layson’s research on the anti-diabetic component of the wild fruit won her the National Science and Technology Fair in the Philippines back in February.
Last month, she competed as part of the Philippine delegation in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Arizona. Layson failed to win the U.S. competition but she considers representing the country both a blessing and an honor.
“I didn’t join the competition for fame. I joined this research competition because I wanted to address the problem of diabetes and how my research of aratiles could help solve that,” she added.
Layson, who will be a Grade 11 student this school year, says it is her dream to find a cure for diabetes as it affects many Filipinos. The Philippine Society of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism (PSEDM) estimated that there will be as much as 7.8 million diabetic Filipinos by 2030.
“The inspiration for my study is the several generations of my family have experienced the death of a loved one because of diabetes. It is considered as one of the top causes of death,” the student said in a video posted online.
As part of the first batch of students to ever receive the Gokongwei Brothers Foundation Young Scientist Award, Layson is committed to continuing her quest to develop a cost-effective alternative cure for diabetes and anti-diabetic supplements.
“My research won’t end here. It will actually further develop into more specific compounds. We will delve into other diseases,” she added.