Bears That Eat ‘Junk Food’ May Hibernate Less and Age Faster

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Wildlife raiding human foods might risk faster cellular aging.

The sciences of longevity and nutrition collide in a study by wildlife ecologist Rebecca Kirby and her colleagues, concluding in the February, 2019 issue of Scientific Reports, junk food consumed by bears left behind by humans in national parks shortens the bear’s life, and how she hibernates.

Where bears were studied in Colorado, some were scavenging human food in up words of 30 percent of their total annual diet. The high amounts of processed foods shortened the bear’s hibernation periods, impacting their DNA and ultimately the aging process.

Among bears in the study, those that hibernated for shorter periods had telomeres that shortened more quickly than those of other bears, suggesting the animals were aging faster, the team found.

The study highlights the effect of a poor diet on longevity.