Why are scientists studying hibernation to tackle obesity?

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Many mammals gain weight and become insulin resistant in the fall. However, these changes are easily reversible and mammals will not develop any more unhealthy symptoms. Researchers believe the explanation for this lies in the mechanisms involved in hibernation.

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Hibernating mammals may have a genetic mechanism that protects them from obesity.
Photo credit: Ann Froschauer / U.S. small brown bat Fish and Wildlife Service / via Wikimedia Commons

Researchers have realized the fact that a range of animals have "super powers".

Specifically, the same conditions that affect humans – some of which may be life-threatening – may not affect animals.

Two such examples are elephants and whales, which are at real zero cancer risk. Other animals are unable to develop metabolic conditions like obesity. Why is this?

Researchers Elliott Ferris and Christopher Gregg, from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, believe that hibernation may be related to it.

Many mammals around the world hibernate during the cold season. Hibernation is characterized by entering a sleep-like state in which body temperature drops, breathing slows down, the heart beats slower and all other metabolic processes (automatic, self-regulating processes) physiological) slow down.

This allows hibernating animals to survive during the winter months, when food becomes scarce and living conditions are less friendly.

As Ferris and Gregg noted in their new research paper in …


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