"Hibernating bears stay healthy despite being very fat and sedentary. New research is focusing on what humans can learn from them."
"Fat bear week starts today, that glorious autumn tradition when anyone with an internet connection can vote for the plumpest brown bear in Alaska’s Katmai National Park. Last year, more than 800,000 people weighed in during Fat Bear Week, crowning Otis, an enormous, dimpled ursine, Fat Bear champion for the fourth time.
But for many scientists, the true fascination of Fat Bear Week involves what happens next, when the now beachball-shaped bruins, carrying about 40 percent body fat, lumber into their dens and start hibernating. During hibernation, they remain healthy under conditions that would weaken and sicken mere humans. The bears emerge months later, lean, strong and barely affected by their months of starvation and inactivity.
Until recently, researchers could not explain how. But several fascinating new molecular studies suggest hibernation remodels bear metabolisms and gene activity in unique and dramatic ways that could have relevance for people. The fat bears can advance our understanding of diabetes, muscle atrophy, inactivity and the ingenuity of evolution."
Gretchen Reynolds reports for the Washington Post October 5, 2022.
"The Humble Origins of the ‘Fattest Tournament on Earth’" (New York Times)