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NOT Smarter Than Your Average Bear: Introducing the HealthyKidneyDamageLifestyle

“The problem with designing bear-proof food lockers is that we’ve found there’s a significant overlap between the smartest bears, and the dumbest humans.”A Yosemite National Park Ranger heard in a radio interview years ago

I believe it was a Jimmy Moore podcast way back with the heart surgeon Dr. Steven Gundry that I first caught whiff of the reality of hibernating maminals, and what a robust, complex metabolism they’ve evolved as a survival adaptation for when food is scarce. It was a simple statement I never forgot, paraphrasing: Bears basically become Type II Diabetics right before hibernation. I never forgot it because, well: “Free the Animal.” My fundamental and deep focus—in spite of every diverse thing I’ve ever written—is that animals in their natural habitat, given sufficient resource, have zero of our man-made problems—and 100% of human problems in this context are 100% man “mad.”

It’s my crazy belief that we can take lessons and learn from them and at minimum, live the robust life to which we’re intended and entitled (thanks, Dog), in relative healthful exuberance, right up to the point where our number gets called out of the pack, tribe, or coven hierarchy; and then, it’s game over.

Nobody is safe; nobody gets out alive.

I fell prey to others of my own species strutting around, acting as though the survival adaptations we’ve evolved through death, mayhem—may the best man win—constitute a 24/7/365 HEALTHY LIFESTYLE!!!

It’s bullshit. It’s all bullshit, and I’m not sugar coating it for anyone. I will endeavor to embarrass, expose…and when I realize it, admit it to myself and everyone else. It helps when you have zero problem saying to everyone—indeed relish: I fucked up. I was wrong! Is it really that hard?

Let me ask and answer a few questions before I get into the underlying theme.

  1. Is gluconeogenesis cool? Answer: absolutely; it’s a survival-starvation adaptation for if and when we have only fat & protein, or unpalatable fiber (the gut makes glucose too). Depending upon individuality and “keto” adaptation, the brain needs a minimum of 60g glucose per day, up to 120g glucose per day. Your body has the ability to make it if it has to.
  2. Is ketogenesis cool? Answer: absolutely; it’s a survival-starvation adaptation for if and when we have only fat & protein, or unpalatable fiber. Depending upon individuality and adaptation: brain, other organs, and muscles need more fuel than can be supplied solely through #1.
  3. Do bare survival adaptations constitute healthy 24/7/365 lifestyles? Answer: no, and a-priori (you don’t even need to get up off the couch to understand that truth).
  4. Is it possible that these adaptations constitute a “life hack” that “tricks” evolution, and equals longevity? Answer: I very much doubt it. Our big brains and their energy requirements are well baked into the human cake. Had ice ages persisted and we’d have had to live on the edge all the time, maybe; but we’d probably have smaller, more specialized obligate carnivore brains and have evolved more natural predatory weapons like flesh ripping fangs, claws to hold ’em while we’re vampiring them, and speed (oops, vampires have that already…sorry). But we went on to spend relatively little time worrying about food and instead, built societies, skyscrapers, damns, bridges, roads, transportation, communication, and lots of leisure time with cool vacation spots…and edifice, black robes, marble pedestals, lots of Bibles printed, and awesome war machines to use against those with other Words to Live By (Bibles).

None of this sounds like bare survival or just getting by, to me. It’s just evolution. Count on humans to misinterpret it and fuck it up while animals go about their evolved routines and largely live the life they live, and as they should: from birth right up until game over man. GAME OVER!

A Grizzly Answer for Obesity

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.

All of these animals have evolved ways to overcome conditions considered pathological in humans through unique mutations in key genes. I believe nature has even figured out how to convert profound obesity into a benign state. Enter my object of study: the grizzly.

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. […]

But bears are able to modulate their insulin responsiveness, so that when they are most obese, in the fall, they are most insulin sensitive. In other words, even as they pile on the pounds, their cells retain the capacity to take instructions from insulin.

Just weeks later, the bears render themselves completely insulin resistant while in hibernation; they become, in essence, diabetic. But hibernating bears differ from diabetic humans in that they maintain normal blood sugar levels while in this insulin-resistant state. Once they wake, in the spring, the grizzlies restore their insulin responsiveness. So bears modulate insulin sensitivity not to maintain normal blood sugar levels but to control when fat is stored and when it is broken down.

Put another way, bears naturally and reversibly succumb to diabetes. […]

Grizzlies also handle obesity in a much different manner than humans — without tissue inflammation or storing fat where it does harm. Bears store their winter fuel only in fat tissue, not in the liver or in muscle, as occurs in humans with pathological obesity.

Now, there is an example of a mammalian animal with a metabolism far more complex than yours, and yet, a bear doesn’t even need to get up off the couch to deal with it.

Human obesity is man made. Through and through, top to bottom and wall to wall; i.e., voluminously so. We ought resist being even dumber than is evident we already are. Bears get fat, diabetic and give themselves kidney damage for a reason. They go into ketosis and use gluconeogenesis for a reason. If they could talk, they’d growl at you for suggesting that the latter is a healthy all-around lifestyle. If they could laf at you, they’d laf at you.

The point is this: survival adaptations that are amazingly Dog-like-cool—for when the shit hits the fan—do not at all constitute a health lifestyle anyone ought to adopt all the time. Use GNG/Ketosis like a drug, with all negative side-effects and tradeoffs accounted for. Stop fucking pretending it’s “healthy,” anymore than taking any sort of drug is prima-facie counted as healthy.

And Free the Animal!

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

18 Comments

  1. Jake on February 12, 2014 at 12:16

    “Now, there is an example of a mammalian animal with a metabolism far more complex than yours.”

    That’s a key point, but not where the author is going. He’s just about ready to ask you for donations to whatever company he’s running for Phase I trials of manipulations of the PTEN gene in humans. It’s the same problem with extending any sorts of lab animal trials to humans – there might be analogs, but nothing is ever exact. What we should be learning from the differences in animal metabolism is just how unique our own is; Instead we’re looking for further quick fixes.

    Robert Frost has a line that always sticks with me: “The best way out is always through.” For some reason I’ve always equated it with rise of agriculture/industrial civilization/etc. etc. How do we get ourselves out of the mess we’re in now? It’s clearly impossible to revert to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, and half of what we currently work on are stop-gap measures to complex problems (i.e. global warming, anti-GMO movements, etc.) It’s why I can’t go in for arguments like GMOs, because the only way out is through – to pursue technology to a further degree. But it often feels like the one exception to that is the human body. I think we’re on a slow march to fully ‘hacking’ and achieving optimal health – but 500 years from now on, and I’d suspect it would be far more at a neurological level than anything else. Soylent Green isn’t fixing any problems today; talk to me when I can fully control every aspect of my brain. With an evolutionary template, it’s difficult to support anything else in the meantime.

  2. Richard Nikoley on February 12, 2014 at 12:22

    “He’s just about ready to ask you for donations to whatever company he’s running for Phase I trials of manipulations of the PTEN gene in humans.”

    I don’t give a flying fuck. He wrote the article in English and I read English. I also don’t care about his trials. The article was written in English and I read English. People can donate if they like, or take it from where he left it, should they read and comprehend English words.

  3. Richard Nikoley on February 12, 2014 at 12:43

    “It’s why I can’t go in for arguments like GMOs, because the only way out is through – to pursue technology to a further degree.”

    Fully, wholeheartedly agree. Can’t unwind the clock, unring the bell, unbake the cake.

    This is precisely why you’ll find scant little on my blog about factory famed meats or GMO crops.

  4. George on February 12, 2014 at 15:12

    I too don’t care about the author’s financial interests, except that his interests caused him to write some interesting stuff. The kidneys scar because the bear can’t afford to lose much water, that part wouldn’t apply to any human awake and free to feel thirst. But the scars are resorbed quickly. This is what happens to the liver when an alcoholic stops drinking (assuming he hasn’t progressed too far into cirrhosis). And it’s nothing to do with the liver cells fast replication, scar tissue isn’t alive. We probably have much the same capability as the Grizzly if we only remove whatever is scarring us, as the bear does when it stops hibernating. But it’s easy for the bear, it only has one option – hibernation or waking life – and that’s not even a choice.

  5. Woodchuck Pirate on February 12, 2014 at 15:48

    “How do we get ourselves out of the mess”, may be the challenge to individual and collective, however is their adaptation mutually exclusive?

    Some would call genocide a stop-gap measure. The architects of faith in science are giddy with fate. Bill Gates can’t stop smiling. GMO’s,Carbon Credits, Paralyzing Polio Vaccines, …faith.

    Woodchuck Pirate
    aka Raymond J Raupers Jr USA
    http://www.woodchuckpirate.com

  6. rob on February 12, 2014 at 16:41

    I just assume that all my internal organs are hosed and that I am likely to keel over any day now.

    • Woodchuck Pirate on February 12, 2014 at 16:50

      Rob,

      Thank you so much. You produced my first belly laugh in so long I can’t remember. Truly visual. Kevin Spacey level, nothing left to lose. Enjoy the fall.

      Woodchuck Pirate
      aka Raymond J Raupers Jr USA
      http://www.woodchuckpirate.com



    • Richard Nikoley on February 12, 2014 at 18:06

      Atta boy Rob. That way, everything is upside, right?

      I get it, man.



  7. Colleen on February 12, 2014 at 18:25

    Ketosis and GNG came out of Africa, so it had to be something we used often enough in our history there or it wouldn’t be readily accessible to us. Seasonal? Rainy season, dry season? I don’t know enough to say. But I believe for at a subset that Ketosis may now be preferential or the most healthy state if there has been a history of obesity, yo yo dieting or the like.

  8. Bill Strahan on February 12, 2014 at 20:42

    Gluconeogenesis is like Chapter 11. Ketosis is like Chapter 7. Both great things to handle scarcity as it occurs, but not a great place to hang out.

    • BrazilBrad on February 13, 2014 at 04:35

      @BillS, Scarcity used to be the norm as was 3+ hours per day of movement obtaining food. In today’s couch-i-fied world I think a forced Gluc/Ket state is a great place to hang out, if intermittently not steady-state (24/7/365).

      In visiting this place, not living there, the swings in energy substrate usage I think exercises the full range of the human body’s energy pathways, organs, hormones, etc…. and keeps one more metabolically flexible, the way we have evolved to be.



    • Bill Strahan on February 13, 2014 at 11:08

      I think we agree. I believe that they’re both great places to visit, whether the scarcity is environmental or self-induced. In the U.S., we HAVE to self-induce the scarcity because that’s the only way it occurs.

      Go for a long hike with no carbs for a couple of days. That’s a good visitation. Fast 24 hours, and do an intense CrossFit style workout or heavy weightlifting. Also a good visitation. And I think you’ll be better off for it for the reasons you pointed out.

      Kinda like when cars had carburetors, and we’d get out on the highway once every couple months and “blow the carbon out” if they were only driven in the city at very low power levels.

      I think it’s a great idea to cause your body to forcefully dip into its fat stores episodically. I don’t think it’s good to cycle between nothing but body fat and dietary fat.



    • Richard Nikoley on February 13, 2014 at 12:46

      I once tried to climb half dome (back side) from the valley floor in Yosemite, about 7 miles one way and 4,500 vertical, as I recall. Crapped out about 2/3 when the air stated getting thin, started cramping up. A year later I did it on bologna sandwiches and zoomed right up.

      That said, I still like to do fasted workouts, sometimes as long as 24 hours in. But, that’s 30 minutes of intense effort, not 6-8 hours.



    • Bill Strahan on February 13, 2014 at 18:31

      Went on a men’s backpacking trip last summer. 6 days, pack everything in, pack it out. Super heavy pack, 70+ pounds to start, and I typically didn’t eat until dinner each day. When I did, I ate a ton of food, but by then had gone 6-10 miles at elevations between 9000 and 13000 feet.

      My body was pretty good at dipping into fat stores at the time. I lost 10 pounds in those 6 days. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life…and one of the reasons I say thanks/grace/blessing at meals now. But I don’t want to short change the story too much.

      I was the oldest of the twelve of us, by at least a decade. Made me feel good to keep up, and kept me going when my coughs would taste like I was sucking on a rusty nail. I didn’t know what I was capable of, and I suppose I still don’t, but I have a better idea for sure.



    • Richard Nikoley on February 13, 2014 at 23:18

      Five reps of deadlift are over in 30 seconds.



  9. Gaby A. on February 12, 2014 at 21:00

    The more uncomfortable side of hibernation, and another reason not to be like the bears.

    http://goo.gl/Y2mNAi

  10. EatLessMoveMoore on February 13, 2014 at 19:02

    “HealthyKidneyDamageLifestyle”.

    Laf.

    If that’s not an attack-on-Jimmy-by-proxy, then NOTHING is.

    But I suppose you can at least maintain plausible deniability – helps, I suppose, in the area of link-love & such…

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