Yogi Bear Diet: Can Grizzlies Help Us Fight Obesity?

Filling up
Filling up
Francesco Semprini

Yogi Bear on the cutting edge of obesity research?

Dr. Kevin Corbit, a scientist for the pharmaceutical giant Amgen, is convinced that by studying the behavior of the brown bear — an animal that can weigh up to 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) and consume up to 58,000 calories daily — we can understand a lot about our own eating habits and identify aspects of obesity that have yet to be fully explored.

“When I think of obesity, Yogi Bear comes to mind,” Corbit says, speaking in his Washington State University lab. More than a dozen beautiful grizzlies are being hosted here in Pullman, Washington as rather large and cuddly stand-ins for mice and guinea pigs.

Bears are incredibly strong and sometimes fierce animals, that are also the guardians of precious nutritional secrets that may be able to help solve the human obesity phenomenon.

In the weeks before their annual hibernation, they hoard honey, salmon and blackberries to gain about 100 kilos (220 pounds), which causes a surge of bad cholesterol and arterial pressure.

But unlike for humans, their health is unaffected by this gorging period. Their arteries become unclogged when they lose the weight after hibernation, and they’re practically immune to diabetes. These researchers are trying to understand how their bodies work, performing biopsies on fat deposits and keeping close observation of their hearts.

The bears in this center were born and rescued from Yellowstone National Park, where they had become dangerous to humans. The center takes precautions to ensure the safety of its employees, including keeping the bears behind electric fences, and having them anaesthetised and placed in cages to allow physicians to examine them safely.

The scientists use honey in bottles to distract them when they’re undergoing certain tests — electrocardiograms (ECGs), for example — for which anaesthesia cannot be used. “It’s of course a long and complex study, but it’s definitely important for research,” says Alexander Kamb, coordinator of the Amgen research department that launched the program two years ago.

The traditional approaches to obesity study have yielded limited results, and drugs marketed to help people lose weight can only reduce a small percentage of fats from the human body. Brown bears, on the other hand, are able to become obese in a healthy way every year, and still lose a large amount of weight without any adverse health effects, thanks to their faculty to control the hormone insulin.

The secret lies in the genome of these animals, which the researchers are trying to map, Kamb says. “Our goal is to be able to understand how the bears are able to perform such magic.”

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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