College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science (CAES)

Tea Research Assists in Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes

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Tea was the subject of research by Chinese national Dr Xin Xiao who graduated with a PhD in Biochemistry.

Xiao examined the antioxidative and antidiabetic potential of a variety of widely consumed Chinese and South African indigenous teas, contributing significantly to Type 2 diabetes treatment using alternative medicine.

He was overjoyed at his success saying: ‘I love South Africa, I love UKZN. Thank you for fulfilling my dreams and giving me wonderful memories.’

Xiao became interested in UKZN while working as a Chinese language teacher in the Confucius Institute at the Durban University of Technology from 2014 to 2017. ‘At that time, I was also looking for an available PhD position and happened to know that Professor Shahidul Islam was working on type 2 diabetes, which is the exact research field I was interested in,’ he said.

‘Diabetes mellitus is one of the global epidemics of the 21st century,’ explained Xiao. ‘The effectiveness of Chinese teas and South African teas in the management and treatment of Type 2 diabetes has been reported. With the demand for alternate therapies due to the deficiencies found in antidiabetic synthetic drugs, there is a need to do more research with teas.

‘My study compared five widely used Chinese and South African teas in order to identify their antidiabetic potential in the management of diabetes.’

Xiao said he had always been keen on Chinese teas and had focused on tea science for his masters at Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University in China.

‘My father was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes 10 years ago so I know it is not easy for diabetic patients,’ said Xiao. ‘I wanted to do something good for my father and others who have diabetes like him.’

The results of Xiao’s doctoral research indicate promising anti-T2D properties of the studied teas. ‘This supports their use as functional foods in the management and treatment of Type 2 diabetes,’ said Islam.

Several papers have been published from Xiao’s thesis in international peer-reviewed journals. ‘This research will help diabetics to choose improved antidiabetic teas and develop tea-based food supplements,’ added Islam.

Xiao has returned to China in search of a postdoctoral position and to continue doing research on tea and human health. He hopes to do more research collaboration with UKZN. ‘Hopefully this will help people to improve management of their health conditions in both China and South Africa,’ he said.

Xiao thanked his family and fiancée for their spiritual and financial support and for encouraging him to pursue his dreams. ‘I would also like to thank Professor Islam, Dr Ochuko Erukainure, and my fellow lab mates who helped me throughout my research and writing of the thesis. My thanks also to Mr Nelson Chen and My Frank Wu, who supported my living challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. And last, but not the least, Dr Chaobo Fu, who made my work and study possible in South Africa from the very beginning.’

Words: Sally Frost

Photograph: Supplied