Iditarod, Dogs, Exercise, And Diabetes

What do all the things mentioned above have in common? A study involving dogs in Iditarod worthy shape to see if their fat-burning abilities could...

Horst Hoefinger  |  Mar 27th 2009


What do all the things mentioned above have in common? A study involving dogs in Iditarod worthy shape to see if their fat-burning abilities could help uncover ways to prevent and treat obesity in type 2 diabetes?

Michael Davis is on the trail to find out. Davis, a professor at Oklahoma State University who has studied exercise physiology in sled dogs for a decade, recently completed the first phase of research examining how dogs that train for the 1,100-mile Iditarod become “insulin-sensitive” and convert fat to energy so proficiently.

“If we can figure out what exercise is doing to start the process, then we may be able to find how it can be applied to everyone, whether or not they are physically able to exercise,” he says.

Approximately 24 million Americans have type 2 diabetes, diet and exercise have been shown to help prevent the onset.

Davis and his collaborators chose 16 dogs in Iditarod-worthy shape and had them run 22 miles at a healthy clip of 8 m.p.h. Half the dogs were anesthetized for five minutes while researchers took small muscle biopsies from their legs; the other half were measured for insulin sensitivity using catheters.

By calculating the metabolic stress on the muscles again in the fall — when the dogs are not in shape after a summer of inactivity — Davis hopes to understand how the cells are reacting under different physical conditions.

Interesting, I’ll have to keep an eye out in the fall to see if there is an update on his findings.

*Cody is an Alaskan Malamute living in Australia, he obviously isn’t good with maps.