Physiology Study Explores Causal Relations between Diet, Exercise and Diabetes
Dr Mluleki Luvuno’s PhD study developed a nutrition-based animal model of prediabetes using a high-fat high carbohydrate diet and observed that increased dependency on unhealthy diets and a relatively sedentary lifestyle coincide with the current alarming increase in type 2 diabetes.
The study was conducted in UKZN’s School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences.
The study also examined the effect of regular and intermittent exercise on metabolic changes as well as learning, memory and general cognitive function. It found that prolonged ingestion of a high-fat high carbohydrate diet leads to the development of prediabetes in animals. This was accompanied by changes in glucose homeostasis, lipid metabolism, renal function, and cardiovascular function as well as cognitive function in the prediabetic animals. However, both regular and intermittent exercise improved the metabolic changes and risk factors associated with prediabetes and alleviated the cardiovascular complications that come with this condition. Furthermore, exercise ameliorated cognitive impairment following prolonged ingestion of the high-fat high carbohydrate diet. When prediabetes is identified early, exercise can delay the onset of full-blown diabetes and/or even reverse prediabetes when done properly and/or coupled with dietary changes.
Luvuno encountered financial and health related challenges. There were times when his research group ran out of operating funds and had to wait for the release of funds to continue with their experiments. Just when they had gone past this stage of doing the experiments and he was writing up the manuscript in preparation for the final submission, he fell ill and was forced to take a break. Having bounced back at the beginning of 2020 and completed the thesis, the COVID-19 pandemic affected the turnaround time from his examiners, and he missed the April Graduation. Luvuno said that patience and hope kept him going and through God’s grace, he was able to triumph.
‘My future aspiration is to contribute to the generation of knowledge that will improve people’s health and quality of life. I am the first one to reach this level of education not only in my family, but in my community. I know that my supervisors, Professor Musa Mabandla and Dr Andile Khathi, my family and everyone who knows me are very proud of me. I’m humbled,’ said the 28-year-old who hails from Msinga in northern KwaZulu-Natal.
Luvuno is currently a postdoctoral fellow at UKZN. He hopes to establish himself as a researcher and diversify. He envisages a career in academia.
Luvuno is eternally grateful to his family who ensured that his financial and emotional needs were met. ‘The emotional support from my mother, Mrs BC Luvuno, was exceptional. She is a strong, phenomenal woman.’
Words: Lihle Sosibo