Fruit bats could offer lesson for human diabetes

Fruit bats could offer lesson for human diabetes

Envy the fruit bat. They can eat twice their body weight in sugary fruit without spiking blood sugar endangering their health. In fact, you’ll see a unicorn in the wild before you find a fruit bat with diabetes.

We humans aren’t so lucky. Unlike our batty friends, we must watch what we eat. Those of us with diabetes avoid sugary treats.

The bats have evolved to accommodate their diet. A world of chocolate bars and high-carb food is a relatively modern trend. We humans can’t wait a hundred million years for a natural adaptation to fix that. So, scientists look to the fruit bat.

What’s going on in their tiny pancreases, the insulin-producing organ that regulates blood sugar?

Scientists at the University of California found that the fruit bat pancreas boasts extra insulin-producing cells compared with their insect-eating brethren. They also discovered other tiny genetic differences that allow fruit bats to process an immense amount of sugar.

A better understanding of how sugar metabolism works in this quirky species could help researchers find ways to treat people with diabetes or prediabetes. Could that knowledge one day lead to a cure?

More than 37 million Americans have diabetes, and 1 in 3 Americans are prediabetic. It’s the eighth leading cause of death in the U.S.

One other thing about those fruit bats. They don’t need a dentist. They can eat all the sugar they want without getting cavities. Their saliva is thought to play a role in that.

But don’t let bat envy eat you alive. After all, when was the last time you had to sleep upside down in a cave?

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