Does Taurine Deficiency Cause Metabolic Bone Disease and Rickets in Polar Bear Cubs Raised in Captivity?
Rickets and fractures have been reported in captive polar bears. Taurine (TAU) is key for the conjugation of ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA), a bile acid unique to bears. Since TAU-conjugated UDCA optimizes fat and fat-soluble vitamin absorption, we asked if TAU deficiency could cause vitamin D malabsorption and lead to metabolic bone disease in captive polar bears. We measured TAU levels in plasma (P) and whole blood (WB) from captive and free-ranging cubs and adults, and vitamin D3 and TAU concentrations in milk samples from lactating sows. Plasma and WB TAU levels were significantly higher in cubs vs captive and free-ranging adult bears. Vitamin D in polar bear milk was 649.2±569.2 IU/L, similar to that found in formula. The amount of TAU in polar bear milk is 3166.4±771 nmol/ml, 26-fold higher than in formula. Levels of vitamin D in bear milk and formula as well as in plasma do not indicate classical nutritional vitamin D deficiency. Higher dietary intake of TAU by free-ranging cubs may influence bile acid conjugation and improve vitamin D absorption.
KeywordsBile Acid Ursodeoxycholic Acid Polar Bear Metabolic Bone Disease Whole Blood
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