I don’t often write about animals, but I have a soft spot for dolphins. Not only are these mammals incredibly cute, but they’re most likely smarter than us too. So I thought I’d throw this new study into the mix. Especially since it uncovered some interesting observations that may very well help us humans deal with the massive diabetes epidemic we’re facing.
According to a study led by the National Marine Mammal Foundation (NMMF), bottlenose dolphins showed they could develop metabolic syndrome that mimics pre-diabetes in humans. And it turns out a lack of one particular type of fat may be the cause.
Although humans aren’t really that closely related to dolphins, we both have brains that are similar in size and structure. And we both share the ability for our red blood cells to transport large amounts of the sugar to the brain.
When humans develop diabetes, it’s due to a malfunction in the body’s ability to make insulin. Without enough insulin, blood sugar to steadily increases. The difference with dolphins is their brains can flip a “genetic switch” that toggles between a diabetic-like state when they are fasting overnight, without suffering any ill effects. And then when they eat the following morning, their blood glucose levels revert to normal.
To determine how this “intermittent diabetes” was occurring, the researchers looked at the dolphins’ diet, which consisted mainly of fish. Then they did a blood test in 49 of the dolphins and identified 55 different fatty acids. And out of all 55 fats, they found one particular saturated fat had the most beneficial impact on dolphin metabolism.
Let me just take a minute to emphasize that these benefits came from a saturated fat. (You know, the kind the mainstream medical experts want you to steer clear of.)
The dolphins who had the highest levels of a dietary saturated fat called heptadecanoic acid (HA) in their blood also had lower insulin levels and triglycerides. This fat is found some fish, such as mullet, but also in full fat dairy products like butter and whole milk.
Out of the 49 dolphins NMMF studied, six of them had low levels of HA at the outset. They also had some of the classic hallmarks of metabolic syndrome — like high levels of insulin, blood glucose, and triglycerides. But when researchers fed these dolphins fish with high levels of HA, all six of the dolphins’ blood markers returned to normal within about six months.
Another interesting finding: These same six dolphins also had high ferritin levels. Ferritin is an intracellular protein that helps store and release iron. In humans, high ferritin levels indicate an accumulation of iron in your organs, which can lead to all sorts of potentially deadly health concerns like cancer and heart attacks. High ferritin in humans is also a common forerunner to metabolic syndrome. But in this study, the researchers found that when the dolphins started eating more HA-rich fish, their ferritin levels returned to normal within three weeks.
So how does all of this impact you? Well, consider the influx of “low fat” dairy products to hit shelves in recent decades. Manufacturers removed the fat from dairy in response to the mainstream’s fat-phobia. But in its place they added sugar. This is a double-whammy for your health. The absence of fat may have led to unintentional HA deficiencies, which set the stage for metabolic syndrome. And the added sugar wreaks havoc on your compromised metabolism. The end result? The massive diabetes epidemic I mentioned above.
Of course, HA deficiency isn’t the ONLY factor involved. But the outcome of this dolphin study is right in line with the growing scientific evidence that fat isn’t the enemy the mainstream nutrition “experts” (and I use that term very loosely) have made it out to be. In fact, the new 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (which appeared in the June 2015 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association) have finally abandoned the restrictions on dietary fat that date back to 1980.
The times they are a’ changin’.
And who knows? Perhaps humans have a diabetic “switch” similar to what these researchers discovered in dolphins. If researchers can identify a similar genetic pathway, they may be able to develop methods to effectively switch off diabetes.
Until that time, it seems you can curb your chances of developing diabetes by simply adding grass fed butter and other whole fat, HA-rich dairy products to your diet.