A University of Illinois research team led by Professor Kelly Swanson has published research which describes how nutrients and biological compounds in foods can affect gene expression in animals.
The research will help to understand the underlying reasons for obesity in pets. Professor Swanson explains that obesity has its roots in the domestication of dogs. Because dogs no longer hunt or compete for their food and are speyed or neutered (so not having to mate), the typical dog has much smaller energy requirements than its forefathers.
The research team explains that when more energy (food) is consumed than is required, it is stored as fat in the adipose tissue (fat tissue). Adipose tissue secretes more than 50 substances known as adipokines, which are cell-signaling molecules that are involved in metabolism, immunity and inflammation.
In obese dogs, levels of the adipokine leptin increases while the levels of the adipokine adiponectin decreases.
The researchers aim to study obesity at the molecular level, so they can help to prevent it happening.