PETALING JAYA: At just 16 years old, Filipino student scientist Maria Isabel Layson has discovered potential anti-diabetic components in the aratiles fruit (Muntingia calabura).
Known in the Philippines as sarisa and elsewhere as the Jamaican cherry, the aratiles fruit goes by many names in Malaysia, and is known locally as ceri Siam and ceri kampung, among others.
Hailing from Iloilo City, the teen was part of the Philippine delegation that competed in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Arizona, United States last month.
According to an ABS-CBN report, Layson joined the prestigious research competition because she wanted to address the problem of diabetes and find out how her research of the aratiles fruit could help solve that.
Her research had found bioactive compounds like anthocyanin, flavonoids and polyphenol in the fruit.
“Nobody pays attention to the fruit and its medicinal properties. They don’t realise that it has the potential for becoming a regulator of diabetes,” she said.
Layson is among the pioneer recipients of the Gokongwei Brothers Foundation Young Scientist Award.
In a video interview on the foundation’s YouTube channel, Layson said the fruit can be used as a functional food.
“Basically, it’s just the fruit itself so you could take in the fruit and acquire the antioxidant and anti-diabetic properties,” she added.
Her research will identify more specific compounds and she will also delve into research involving other diseases.
Some 3.6 million Malaysians are suffering from diabetes, the highest rate of incidence in Asia and one of the highest in the world.
Seven million Malaysian adults are likely to have diabetes by 2025.