Photo: Jonathan Brennecke (Flickr)
It’s easy to tell, even at a glance, that people and moose are pretty different. Moose, at least males, have big, wing shaped antlers. People have no antlers. Moose are herbivores, eating only plants.
We eat mostly junk food. Despite their salad only diet, moose can weigh as much as 1400 pounds. Even the fattest humans top the scales at only around 1000 pounds. The list goes on.
Similar In Nature
And yet, in some ways, people and moose are similar. For example, both suffer from arthritis.
And that’s interesting because how and why moose develop arthritis may be able to tell us something about the pathology of the human variety.
For example, researchers working in Michigan’s upper peninsula have been studying moose there for decades. And one thing they’ve found is while arthritis in moose is partly genetic, it’s also triggered by the environment.
Specifically, the researchers have observed that moose that suffer from arthritis seem to have not had access to proper nutrition early in life.
Perhaps they were born during a drought when there weren’t enough berries and other plants to eat. Whatever the case, even if those moose had plenty to eat later on, their very early nutritional deficits appear to have doomed them to an adult life of aching joints.
The takeaway for scientists who study arthritis, and doctors who treat it in people, is that how and what we eat, even as babies, may lay the foundation for chronic arthritis and other health problems later in life.
And thanks to the moose, those scientists are also beginning to better understand the sorts of diets that could lower those risks.
- Moose Offer Trail of Clues on Arthritis (New York Times)