Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Grizzly Answer for Obesity

So maybe we’ve been on the wrong track. An alternative approach looks at whether nature, through millions of years of evolutionary experimentation, has already figured out how to appropriately cope with biological threats.

Many fascinating examples exist. A diminutive rodent, the grasshopper mouse, is resistant to the excruciating sting of the bark scorpion. For longevity, nothing can top the naked mole rat, which is naturally resistant to types of pain, cancer and, possibly, Alzheimer’s disease. After weeks of fasting, Burmese pythons are able to enlarge their hearts by as much as 40 percent within two to three days of eating in order to accommodate the increased metabolism — a degree of cardiac hypertrophy that would be a leading predictor of mortality in humans.
Hibernation by bears is an astonishing feat of evolution. After an epic period of late-summer gorging, during which, every day, a bear may consume more than 50,000 calories and gain up to 16 pounds, it will fast for up to seven months. Then it subsists solely on stored fat, without eating, drinking, urinating or defecating.
Bears also shut down their renal function during hibernation, resulting in badly scarred kidneys and high levels of blood toxins that would kill a human. What is truly remarkable is that the bears’ kidney failure is reversible: Upon awakening from hibernation, their kidney function is fully restored with no lasting damage.

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