Elephants do not carry as much fat as their large frame may suggest, experts say,
Rather, a new research, published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, suggests that the world’s largest land mammal is proportionately slimmer than humans.
Scientists from Indiana University, USA, measured the amount of fat these animals carry, and results suggest that captive elephants do not have more than 10 percent fat.
This is considerably less than a healthy human, whose fat levels can reach 31 percent, the study says.
The scientists fed 44 Asian elephants a set volume of water, soaked up by bread. This volume was then subtracted from the elephant’s body mass index, providing an indicator of its fat levels.
The results – published in the Journal of Experimental Biology – suggest a female elephant carries around 10 percent fat, while the males are slightly less at 8.5 percent.
A healthy human can be between six percent and 31 percent fat.
Infertile elephants carry less fat, which the scientists compared to underweight women often struggling to conceive.
Elephants, however, have elevated levels of insulin, the blood sugar-lowering hormone, the study says.
“It is possible elephants could develop a diabetic-like state,” said study author Daniella Chusy.
According to the World Health Organisation, overweight and obesity are defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health.
A body mass index over 25 is considered overweight, and over 30 is obese. The issue has grown to epidemic proportions, with over four million people dying each year as a result of being overweight or obese in 2017 according to the global burden of disease, WHO says.
The global health body notes that rates of overweight and obesity continue to grow in adults and children.
“From 1975 to 2016, the prevalence of overweight or obese children and adolescents aged 5–19 years increased more than four-fold from 4% to 18 percent globally,” WHO says.
The United Nations health agency notes that obesity is one side of the double burden of malnutrition, and today, more people are obese than underweight in every region except sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
“Once considered a problem only in high-income countries, overweight and obesity are now dramatically on the rise in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in urban settings.
“The vast majority of overweight or obese children live in developing countries, where the rate of increase has been more than 30 percent higher than that of developed countries,” WHO adds.
Carrying a dangerous amount of weight has been linked to a host of medical conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis and certain cancers.
Again, the WHO says obesity could increase the risk of severe COVID-19 infection by seven fold.
A study published in the journal Jama Internal Medicine shows that young adults with underlying conditions such as morbid obesity, diabetes, and hypertension are at the highest risk of being placed on a ventilator or dying from COVID-19.
According to the study of 3,000 hospitalized patients aged 18 to 34, it confirmed that black and Hispanic people have been the worst affected by the pandemic: they accounted for 57 percent of all young adults who were hospitalized and 49 percent of those who died or needed ventilation.
The study led by Jonathan Cunningham noted that morbid obesity, hypertension, and diabetes were common and associated with greater risks of adverse events.
“Young adults with more than one of these conditions faced risks comparable with those observed in middle-aged adults without them. More than half of these patients requiring hospitalization were Black or Hispanic, consistent with prior findings of disproportionate illness severity in these demographic groups,” the researchers said.
The researchers said given the sharply rising rates of COVID-19 infection in young adults, the findings underscore the importance of infection prevention measures in this age group.
In November 2020, scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany warned that more than four billion people worldwide could be overweight by 2050 if our unhealthy eating habits continue.
The scientists blamed the increasing move away from plant-based ways of eating towards more “affluent diets high in sugar, fat and animal-source foods, featuring highly-processed food products.”
Writing in the journal Scientific Reports, the Potsdam scientists warned an upcoming health and environmental crisis could be of “mind-blowing magnitude,” with the global demand for food set to increase by 50% mid-century.
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