LONDON: Dolphins have the ability to turn off and on diabetes, scientists have found, a discovery that could lead to a cure for the disease in humans.
Dolphins can induce diabetes when there is little food around and turn it off when food is abundant, the researchers found.
They believe it is a unique ability and results from the mammal’s need to maintain high blood sugar levels to feed its big brain.
They also believe that humans had the ability but lost it through evolution and that studying dolphins could lead to techniques to re-activate it.
A team lead by Dr Venn-Watson regularly studied the blood samples of the dolphins off the San Diego coast and found that they could induce type II diabetes at times of fasting and then almost immediately turn it off again when food became available.
“Dolphins in the ocean go in to feast or famine situations. They will eat a bunch of fish at once and then they may go a while and fast and not eat. During that fasting state they need a mechanism to keep sugar pumping around their blood,” she said.
Dr Venn-Watson believes that the ability dates back to when dolphins reverted from land animals to sea animals 55 million years ago and had to adapt to a protein-only fish diet, the Telegraph reported.
There was evidence that humans have done the same during the last ice age when they had to rely on a protein rich diet because all carbohydrate rich foods had been frozen, she said.