Protein and fat metabolism in hibernating bears

Fed Proc. 1980 Oct;39(12):2955-8.


Hibernation in the bear (Ursus americanus) is unique in that it is continuous for 3 to 7 months and occurs at near normal body temperature, yet the bear does not eat, drink, urinate, or defecate. During hibernation there is no loss of lean body mass because amino acids enter protein synthetic pathways at increased rates producing reciprocal decreases in entry into the urea cycle. The urea that is formed is hydrolyzed and the nitrogen released is combined with glycerol to form amino acids, which reenter protein synthetic pathways. Body fat supplies the substrate for metabolism (400 kilocalories/day). Ketosis does not occur. Metabolic water is sufficient to maintain normal hydration. About 100 ml of urine is filtered daily by the kidneys but the baldder wall transports water and solute back into blood at a rate about equal to their entry into the bladder. The bear cannot duplicate its winter adaptation in summer when housed in the cold and dark. During hibernation the bear shows hypothalamic hypothyroidism and increased testosterone production. These changes appear necessary for developing the selective states of anabolism and catabolism found in the hibernating bear.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carnivora / physiology*
  • Hibernation*
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / physiology
  • Lipid Metabolism*
  • Pituitary Gland / physiology
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Sciuridae / metabolism
  • Triglycerides / metabolism
  • Urea / metabolism
  • Ursidae / metabolism
  • Ursidae / physiology*


  • Proteins
  • Triglycerides
  • Urea