Dolphins offer humans a clue to treating diabetes

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Metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes are very common in a given proportion. Diabetes care has long been a concern in many clinics due to the flexibility and transition that causes co-morbid diseases. Understanding cholesterol synthesis and its dietary implications are one of the most difficult aspects of treating diabetes. Invasive ways of diagnosing diabetes include lipid screening and blood glucose testing, which necessitate blood draws and daily finger sticks to produce the desired results. The Atlantic dolphins scientifically referred to as Tursiops truncates provides a good model for breath testing and the application of dietary manipulations and human diabetes. The trend has been discussed below in the form of a summary of different studies.

A dolphin model of the human MetS

Development of the model was made by Venn-Watson and his colleagues. It reported that dolphins could be used a model of the human insulin resistance and MetS. According to an article published in 2011, managed dolphins were fed with Spanish mackerel which is a low-carbohydrate and high-protein meal (Schivo et al 2). The result was sustained hyperglycemia which consisted of 5h post-mackerel and 10h post-dextrose. Their insulin levels were also elevated resulting in an impaired DM2 insulin metabolism. The result of the work too indicated that serum went up in fasting dolphins and alkaline phosphatase, gamma-glutamyl, and platelets were also elevated. It also happens in human MetS which shows that dolphin’s metabolism is also connected to humans. The MetS and DM2 dolphin model have several applications towards insulin control (Schivo et al 3). The hyperglycemia is a natural response that happens during post-prandial and fasting. It may occur as a response to starvation. The model is also vital in studying cholesterol fluctuations. In dolphins, cholesterol seems to go up after increasing insulin and glucose levels. The appealing model of MetS and DM2 can be applied to both human and animal health research concerning blood sugar level.

Feeding and diet

The two samples of bottlenose in this experiment were collected in the CA, USA and San Diego under the care of Marine Mammal Program. The group A sample consisted of n=34 and group B, n=16. After fasting, sample A was fed a third their daily intended diet in the morning. The feeding was based on the kilocalories per kilogram that vary with activity, age, and sex. 3253/732 kcal of macronutrients was given in the morning, 453/132g of protein, 184/43g of fat and 1/1g of carbohydrates (Venn-Watson et al 3). For the group B sample, the absence of contents in their stomachs was assessed by use of sonography method. A recording of Postprandial summary of sample B was then done as follows;

Figure 1: Postprandial values of potential metabolic diseases for selected quintiles’ among 34 managed collections of bottlenose dolphins.

For the group A sample, 2h postprandial blood samples were collected each morning. In sample B, the dolphins were captured on the shallow waters, and after collection of the 2h postprandial blood test, they were then released but under a restricted area. The results were that 8 of the 34 dolphins presented an elevated level of insulin greater than 14 and there was no significant change in cases of age and sex (Venn-Watson et al 6). The population of dolphins with elevated insulin had higher BMI, iron, and GGT compared to the dolphins that had no elevated insulin.

Figure 2: Comparison of blood variables among dolphins with and without elevated 2h postprandial insulin.

Dolphin Diving

Several dolphins were trained to dive into the open ocean. According to studies, plasma and blood insulin is produced slowly after loading an oral glucose sample. After diving, they were allowed to exhale in an underwater funnel before getting exposed to the air. The maximum dives were 200m where they could come up again and excel into the conduit for nine times. The results were that after prolonged durations of diving, anaerobic activity took place (Shaw 86176-5). It signified that stored insulin could be used later for anaerobic purposes if a dolphin was exposed for long dives.


The selected portions of dolphins were subjected to several experiments to test the occurrence and nature of insulin. In the case of human MetS, it was found out that insulin levels vary from one point to another regarding DM2 insulin metabolism. It is helpful for the human research since it can help in the understanding of blood sugar and insulin change patterns at different incidences. The difference in feeding habits showed that fats, carbohydrates, and proteins play a vital role in metabolism and they have to be taken in alternating portions for the case of diabetes control. That is the reason why diabetic a patient is advised to be on low caloric and sugary foods. The research on dolphins is of great importance towards establishing of more facts pertaining diabetic problems and how to overcome them.

Work Cited

Ridgway SH, Simpson JG, Patton GS, Gilmartin WG. Hematologic findings in certain small cetaceans. J Am Vet Med Assoc (1970) 157: 566–575.

Schivo M, Seichter F, Aksenov AA, Pasamontes A, Peirano DJ, Mizaikoff B, et al. A mobile instrumentation platform to distinguish airway disorders. J Breath Res (2013) 7(1):017113. doi:10.1088/1752-7155/7/1/017113: 1-5.

Shaw DH. Neutral carbohydrates in the milk of bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus). Carbohydr Res (1971) 19:419–22. doi:10. 1016/S0008-6215(00)86176-5

Venn-Watson S, Smith CR, Jensen ED, Rowles T. Assessing the potential health impacts of the 2003 and 2007 firestorms on bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in San Diego Bay. Inhal Toxicol (2013) 25:481–91. doi:10.3109/08958378. 2013.804611: 1-8

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