The role of pollutants in type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and their prospective impact on phytomedicinal treatment strategies

  • John Baptist Nzukizi Mudumbi
  • Seteno Karabo Obed Ntwampe
  • Lukhanyo Mekuto
  • Tandi Matsha
  • Elie Fereche Itoba-Tombo


Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is the most common form of diabetes and it is characterized by high blood sugar and abnormal sera lipid levels. Although the specific reasons for the development of these abnormalities are still not well understood, traditionally, genetic and lifestyle behavior have been reported as the leading causes of this disease. In the last three decades, the number of diabetic patients has drastically increased worldwide, with current statistics suggesting the number is to double in the next two decades. To combat this incurable ailment, orthodox medicines, to which economically disadvantaged patients have minimal access to, have been used. Thus, a considerable amalgamation of medicinal plants has recently been proven to possess therapeutic capabilities to manage T2DM, and this has prompted studies primarily focusing on the healing aspect of these plants, and ultimately, their commercialization. Hence, this review aims to highlight the potential threat of pollutants, i.e., polyfluoroalkyl compounds (PFCs), endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and heavy metals, to medicinal plants, and their prospective impact on the phytomedicinal therapy strategies for T2DM. It is further suggested that auxiliary research be undertaken to better comprehend the factors that influence the uptake of these compounds by these plants. This should include a comprehensive risk assessment of phytomedicinal products destined for the treatment of T2DM. Regulations that control the use of PFC-precursors in certain developing countries are also long overdue.


Diabetes mellitus Medicinal plants PFCs EDCs Synergy 


Funding information

The authors would like to acknowledge the funding assistance from the National Research Foundation (NRF). TEM is funded by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) with funds from National Treasury under its Economic Competitiveness and Support Package (MRC-RFA-UFSP-01-2013/ VMH Study) and strategic funds from the SAMRC received from the South African National Department of Health. Any opinion, finding, and conclusion or recommendation expressed in this material is that of the author(s) and the MRC does not accept any liability in this regard.

Supplementary material

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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Bioresource Engineering Research Group (BioERG), Department of BiotechnologyCape Peninsula University of TechnologyCape TownSouth Africa
  2. 2.Department of Chemical EngineeringUniversity of JohannesburgJohannesburgSouth Africa
  3. 3.Department of Bio-Medical sciences, Faculty of Health and Wellness ScienceCape Peninsula University of TechnologyBellvilleSouth Africa

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