Friday, 19 February 2010

So Long and Thanks for All the Fish

I have read lots of anecdotal evidence over the years of domesticated animals exhibiting human detrimental human conditions. There was a story of a bear in Canada that was feeding off Pizza scraps out the back of a restaurant. Apparently he developed diabetes!

I know of a few fat cats (not the Merril Lynch kind) that are fed a diet in low levels of poor quality protein (read: 'bulked up with carbohydrates') and a walk around my local park shows plenty of fat dogs (followed by fat owners).

It looks like hedgehogs can also achieve morbid obesity when removed from their natural environment. They are usually fattened up on a diet of bread and although some of them are put on a calorie controlled diet to lose weight, the lucky ones are trimmed down with an Atkins style diet.

So the anecdotal evidence is that we can really screw up animals by feeding them what we eat. However, we can also learn a thing or two by looking at animals in the wild.

This story was posted on the London EF Meet Up site; Dolphins Have Diabetes Off Switch. Dolphins share our large brains which demand a lot of glucose. Dolphin have an ability to flip their insulin sensitivity on and off as they move from daytime feeding to an overnight fast. The effect of insulin is negated during the fast.

One of the researchers, Dr Venn-Watson, suggested this mechanism evolved to cope with their high protein, low carbohydrate diet of fish. He went on to add,

  • '...we have found changes in dolphins that suggest that [this insulin resistance] could get pushed into a disease state. 'If we started feeding dolphins Twinkies, they would have diabetes.'

Who'd have 'thunk' it?

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