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Dolphin Diabetes

February 23, 2010

Diabetes may benefit dolphins’ big brains.


How diabetes helps dolphins. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Millions of people struggle with type-2 diabetes, so researchers were surprised recently to discover that in dolphins, the condition may actually be beneficial. Veterinary epidemiologist Stephanie Venn-Watson of the National Marine Mammal Foundation explains.

STEPHANIE VENN-WATSON (National Marine Mammal Foundation):
We believe that it’s because dolphins eat this high protein, low carbohydrate diet that they’ve evolved to have diabetes. That works to their advantage. It keeps sugar in their blood, which is feeding large brains which they have just like humans, in which insulin resistance actually helps keep sugar in the blood and getting to our brain.

Venn-Watson says diabetes may have helped humans for similar reasons during the ice age, when our ancestors ate a very high protein, low carb diet. She says the discovery could help in the search for a diabetes cure. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.