Does taurine deficiency cause metabolic bone disease and rickets in polar bear cubs raised in captivity?

Russell W. Chesney, Gail E. Hedberg, Quinton R. Rogers, Ellen S. Dierenfeld, Bruce E. Hollis, Andrew Derocher, Magnus Andersen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

15 Scopus citations


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 D 3 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationTaurine 7
Number of pages7
StatePublished - Apr 22 2009

Publication series

NameAdvances in Experimental Medicine and Biology
ISSN (Print)0065-2598

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Does taurine deficiency cause metabolic bone disease and rickets in polar bear cubs raised in captivity?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this