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Anti-Diabetes Mellitus Plants: Active Principles, Mechanisms of Action and Sustainable Utilization

Anti-Diabetes Mellitus Plants: Active Principles, Mechanisms of Action and Sustainable Utilization by Appian Subramoniam. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press; 2016. Hardcover, 390 pages. ISBN: 978-1-4987-5323-4. $119.95.

This book is a follow-up to Plants with Anti-Diabetes Mellitus Properties (CRC Press, 2016), a comprehensive collection and discussion of anti-diabetic plants. Here, Appian Subramoniam, PhD, focuses on the mechanisms of action of anti-diabetic plants and bioactive compounds therein. This work is thorough and includes diverse chapters describing aspects of diabetes and medicinal plant research, ranging from a physiological overview of the disease to sustainable use of anti-diabetic plants.

The book begins with an overview of the various causes of diabetes, with an emphasis on cellular abnormalities that lead to type 2 diabetes. Insulin signaling dysfunction resulting from overconsumption of both carbohydrates and fats, the role of autoimmunity in type 1 diabetes, and causes of circulatory problems in patients with diabetes are all discussed. Several helpful diagrams and figures illustrate the highlighted mechanisms. Also, prominent scientists associated with major insulin signaling and metabolic discoveries are appropriately cited.

Chapter 1 provides a comprehensive foundation for understanding how the plants and compounds therein alleviate symptoms of diabetes, and it serves this function well, overall. Nonetheless, a few things are odd here. Some basic terms, such as endothelial cells and nitric oxide synthase, could have been defined. These omissions result in some of the introduction getting too detailed without a sufficient framework. Contemporary therapeutics are defined, but in the discussion of metformin (although not a true botanically derived compound), no mention is made of its origin based on a compound found in goat’s rue (Galega officinalis, Fabaceae). This is important, as this drug is one of the most widely used therapeutics for diabetes and provides strong justification for the investigation of medicinal plants as leads for new drug discovery.

Chapter 2 is mainly a list of plant compounds, their botanical origin, and brief descriptions of mechanisms of action and research highlights. This section is rather exhaustive and includes 303 compounds, but some of the entries are missing the compound classification (a very helpful feature in most of the entries), and the brief sections describing research are not as up-to-date or comprehensive as they could be. This can be overlooked, as the book’s main goal is to encourage necessary research into potential botanical therapeutics; this makes for a broad perspective at the expense of some details.

Chapter 3, “Mechanism of Action of Anti-Diabetes Mellitus Plants,” is especially strong. The main mechanisms of action are explained here with a focus on cellular regulation. There is an emphasis on clearly describing how bioactive plant compounds may act on various targets, such as insulin action and 5’-adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK); this is a critical concept in diabetes research, because this chronic illness often disrupts multiple metabolic pathways. The author expands from here to include plants that exhibit the mechanisms of action introduced in the beginning of the chapter and examples of plants with numerous cellular targets. The diagrams here are helpful, concise and easy to understand. The chapter ends with a list of plants for which the anti-diabetic mechanism(s) remain unknown, illustrating potential research directions for those interested in pursuing them.

There is also a comprehensive chapter on herbal combinations, including definitions of synergistic and additive effects, with examples of the interaction of certain plant compounds and the resultant impact on bioactivity. Additional chapters address models for studying anti-diabetic activity (both in vivo and in vitro) and sustainable use of anti-diabetic plants. Those who are beginning anti-diabetic research or reviewing additional plants to work on will appreciate the thorough descriptions of models.

This book seems designed as a launch pad for ideas about pursuing anti-diabetic plant research and how to go about this. It makes a great laboratory reference for both students and senior researchers looking for new plant candidates and/or methodology for anti-diabetic research. The price of this book is fair, considering its comprehensive nature. I would highly recommend this book as a reference for those interested in research on the potential anti-diabetic activity of whole plants or plant-derived natural products.

—Amy C. Keller, PhD
Research Scientist/Assistant Professor
Denver VA Medical Center
University of Colorado School of Medicine
Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism & Diabetes
Anschutz Medical Campus
Aurora, Colorado