Feeling Fat? Grizzly Bears May Be Able to Help

Scientist studies grizzlies to see how they eat so much
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 16, 2013 4:37 PM CST
Feeling Fat? Grizzly Bears May Help With Obesity
A grizzly bear.   (Shutterstock)

Ready to get jealous? Grizzly bears can put on 100 pounds or more by wolfing down food before hibernation, without clogging arteries or becoming diabetic. And they can ingest up to 58,000 calories a day and weigh 1,000 pounds without anyone saying anything. Which is exactly why one scientist is studying grizzlies, the Wall Street Journal reports. "When I thought about obesity, I thought about Yogi bear," said Kevin Corbit, who analyzes the bears at a Washington State University facility designed to research adult grizzlies.

Studying such a creature for human-health insights isn't really so odd: Antarctic penguins are helping us learn about the biology of fasting, while narcoleptic dogs have taught us about sleep disorders and sharks have furnished insights into battling cancer. But bears are a little different—big and scary for one, so Corbit distracts them with bottled honey while inserting probes in their chest. Insights so far? Corbit says bears can adjust their responsiveness to the hormone insulin, which controls the breakdown of fat and sugars in food. Next up: sequencing the bear's genome in a couple of years. "That would really accelerate the discovery research for bears," says Corbit. (Read more grizzly bear stories.)

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