Research Shows Hibernation Can Slow Aging – Mighty Scoops

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Every living animal/organism on Earth burns energy all the time; physical activities such as walking and breathing burn energy. Likewise, pumping blood and digesting food also burns energy. Warm-blooded animals burn a lot of energy just to keep our body temperature where we need it. Even when we sleep or think, we burn energy.

From butterflies to bats, hibernation is a way for many creatures to survive cold, dark winters without having to forage or migrate to a warmer location. Instead, they lower their metabolism to conserve energy. However, the dangers of hibernation come from the animal’s vulnerability to predators and the unpredictability of the weather.

Pixabay/ Bru-nO | Hibernation can last for days, weeks or months

Aestivation, a type of hibernation, is also practiced by animals in hotter climates. They can withstand harsh heat, hunger and drought thanks to a similar mechanism that works this way. However, hibernation is a much deeper state than sleep. It can range from brief periods of inactivity to prolonged, profound loss of consciousness, depending on the species.

How does hibernation work?

While some animals simply slow down and move less often, others enter a deep sleep and don’t wake up again until spring. Animals use less energy during hibernation as their body temperature drops as breathing and heart rate slow. Some hibernators sleep for so long that it is very difficult to wake them up and they even look dead!

Vincent MA Janssen/ Pexels | Many species hibernate and still die at an age at which their body size can be predicted

Hibernating animals prepare for hibernation by consuming more food than they need and storing it as body fat, which they use as energy while they sleep. Regular white fat and brown fat are the two different forms of fat. Brown fat forms patches near the animal’s brain, heart and lungs. It sends a quick burst of energy to warm up those organs first when it’s time to wake up.

If the temperature drops too low, some animals will wake up slightly and shiver to warm up a bit. Hibernations may also wake up for a short period of time every few weeks to go to the bathroom and eat some food, if any.

A new study led by UCLA makes a surprising discovery

Lorenzo104/ Getty | God has a reason for whatever season you live in

Hibernation slows telomere shortening and may explain why some rodents live longer than other animals, researchers say. A team of biologists and colleagues from the University of California, Los Angeles, studying yellow-bellied marmots, found that the animals significantly slow down aging during the seven to eight months each year they spend in hibernation. The study, the first to analyze the rate of aging in marmots in the wild, found that their aging essentially stops during hibernation after they reach two years, their age of sexual maturity.

The marmot study is just the latest from the Mammalian Methylation Consortium, which includes nearly 200 collaborators from around the world. Previous research has looked at the life cycles of a variety of mammals, including zebras, horses, bats and mole rats, using epigenetic analysis that allows scientists to estimate a person’s age in relation to the species’ maximum lifespan.

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