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Polar bears may be the key to fighting obesity

Lana Bandoim's picture
Polar bears and obesity

A new study reveals that polar bears may offer the key to understanding how to fight obesity. The research, published in Cell, points out that the DNA of the bears may hold important secrets that can be applied to human diets. Their ability to handle a high-fat diet is unique and based on specific evolutionary changes that occurred centuries ago.

How polar bears handle a high-fat diet

A human being cannot tolerate the type of high-fat diet polar bears need to survive in their environment, but scientists have been investigating how the bears are able to handle it. The results point to specific changes in their DNA that make them immune to heart disease and other cardiovascular problems despite having high cholesterol levels. Researchers believe that a greater understanding of the polar bears’ diet and DNA will help uncover the secrets to fighting obesity in humans.

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The new study reveals that polar bears have specific mutated genes allowing them to eat a high-fat diet without risking their health. For example, the APOB gene is involved in cholesterol movement and plays an important role in keeping the bears healthy. A fat-filled diet is not an issue for polar bears because of the mutations that have developed over the years.

Applications in real life require more time

The study shows promise in understanding obesity and weight gain, but it is not ready to be applied to real life situations. There is no magical pill or powder that can give human beings the metabolism of a polar bear or the ability to tolerate their high-fat diet without consequences. Nevertheless, researchers believe uncovering the mutations that give polar bears their unique abilities will help people in the long-term. It increases the scientific knowledge related to obesity and adds another idea to fighting the extra pounds.

Image: Ansgar Walk/Wikimedia Commons