With all of the dietary advice coming out in magazines these days, it is nice to know that humans are not the only species that struggle with weight loss, or weight gain for that matter. Orangutans are giving scientists more than their fair share of information about new advances in eating disorders.
Everyone knows that evolution is a touchy subject for most parochial schools these days. With this newest research study being reported, it is certain that they are going to go ape! Orangutans, to be more accurate, are an endangered species these days, and have been incredibly helpful in a study recently made on dietary habits and anorexic disorders in their human counterparts. The Borneo orangutan, specifically, is almost on the verge of extinction, and their eating habits have been an impressive and often less than savory subject for evolutionary anthropologist Erin Vogel.
Vogel has been studying the Borneo orangutans in an attempt to learn something about human eating disorders, including obesity. These orangutans have interesting eating habits, being incredibly dependent on a high protein fruit that grows on the Borneo Island in disordered seasons.
This fruit is high in calories and protein and becomes a source of weight gain for the orangutans when it is around. The orangutans will gorge themselves on these fruits and soon deplete them from the island. After this fruit is depleted, the orangutans will switch to tree bark and leaves, which contains minimal proteins.
According to Vogel, “…these primates are able to endure prolonged protein deficits without starving to death… obtaining energy from their stored body fat and even muscles for an extended period of time when low-protein fruit is unavailable.”
Vogel and her team had to observe the orangutans almost around the clock and had to collect urine samples from them with the help of unusual tools, including inverted umbrellas and plastic sheets. Vogel collected samples during times when the high protein fruit was plentiful as well as when it was scarce. Upon analyzing the protein content in the urine samples they collected from both seasons, Vogel was able to determine, “…when caloric intake is restricted that orangutans use fat reserves for energy and eventually dip into their protein [muscle] reserves—a condition that is seen with eating disorders like anorexia.”
It is the hope of Vogel that her research will provide ample support and understanding of not only her furry friends and a way to help remove them from the endangered species list, but as a means of helping to understand eating disorders among civilized individuals. Obesity is a major problem in modern society and apparently is something that could be an evolutionary trait, since we are most closely related to these orange haired, primate specimens. “We have this wonderful ability to store fat, and now most of us wish we didn’t have it,” said Vogel.
Author Ivan Paramore believes that animal testing is wrong, but is glad that animal research can be a beneficial alternative.