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Diabetic Dolphins

July 30, 2015

Dolphin diets provide insight about preventing diabetes.



Juanma-Carrillo-flickr CC BY-SA-NC 2.0

Bottlenose dolphins are prone to developing metabolic syndrome. (Juanma Carillo/CC BY-SA-NC 2.0, via flickr)

Fishing for insights into diabetes. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Dolphins can develop metabolic syndrome, or pre-diabetes, and their diets may reveal new approaches to human diabetes. In the journal PLoS ONE, Stephanie Venn-Watson at the National Marine Mammal Foundation described how different fats in fish affect dolphin health.

STEPHANIE VENN-WATSON (National Marine Mammal Foundation):

We were very surprised to find that it was a saturated fat that was the strongest predictor of lower, healthier insulin.


When dolphins ate fish rich in a fat called C17, their metabolic syndromes improved. C17 is found in fish like mullet, but whole milk and butter have even higher levels. It’s not yet known if the fat would help humans, and Venn-Watson doesn’t recommend that people load up on butter. But her work does suggest that the idea that we should avoid all saturated fats might need some fine-tuning. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.