Tag Archives: diets

Dogs prefer to eat fat…

Dogs gravitate toward high-fat food, but cats pounce on carbohydrates with even greater enthusiasm, according to research into the dietary habits of America’s two most popular pets.

Oregon research into diet

The study sheds new light on optimal nutrition for the animals and refutes a common notion that cats want and need a protein-heavy regimen.

The research, funded by The Pet Nutrition Center of Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc, had its findings published in the Journal of Experimental Biology in May 2018.

“The numbers were much different than what traditional thinking would have expected,” said the study’s corresponding author, Jean Hall, a professor in the Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine at Oregon State University. “Some experts have thought cats need diets that are 40 or 50 percent protein. Our findings are quite different than the numbers used in marketing and are going to really challenge the pet food industry.”

Dietary proteins contribute to a number of important physiological functions such as blood clotting, production of hormones and enzymes, vision and cell repair.

Protein also has the most power to make the eater feel satiated; carbohydrates are No. 2 in that regard, followed by fat.

Hall’s research involved monitoring 17 healthy adult dogs and 27 cats over 28 days and used four types of food that were designed to taste the same; with flavor out of the equation, the animals could make macronutrient choices based only on what their bodies were telling them they needed.

“Previous studies have shown that if you don’t balance palatability between foods, cats do in fact prefer to eat very high levels of protein and dogs want to eat a lot of fat,” Hall said. “When you balance palatability, both dogs and cats prefer significantly different macronutrient content than what they would choose based on taste.”

The animals studied by Hall and her collaborators had four food choices: high-fat, high-carbohydrate, high-protein and balanced foods. Each day, dogs had an hour to eat all they wanted up a predetermined caloric intake – that is, they could get all the calories they needed for metabolic requirements and to maintain weight, but no more.

The cats in the study were likewise not allowed to overeat, though even if given unlimited access to food that tastes how they like it, cats tend to eat in a weight-maintenance way by adjusting their intake based on the food’s energy density. In the study, cats had 24-hour food access to the point of hitting their caloric threshold.

Food container placement for both dogs and cats was changed daily to guard against “bowl position bias” affecting the results.

The researchers found the cats on average chose to get 43 percent of their calories from carbs and 30 percent from protein.

Dogs on the other hand went for 41 percent fat and 36 percent carbs.

Not a single dog or cat chose to get the highest percentage of its calories from protein.

Within the aggregate cat findings were trends correlating with age and lean body mass – how much muscle an animal has.

Younger cats with less lean body mass tended more strongly toward protein consumption than younger cats with more lean body mass; younger cats in general wanted protein more than older cats.

On the dog side of the study, high-protein foods were the least popular among younger animals with less fat body mass; dogs with greater fat body mass had the strongest preference for getting calories from protein.

“Because the choice of macronutrients was influenced in both dogs and cats by age and either lean body mass or fat body mass, that suggests a physiological basis for what they chose to eat,” Hall said.

The research also involved determining the diets’ effect on selected metabolites of each macronutrient class – what they break down into in the body. Hall found the older cats’ blood had much lower levels of DHA, a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid that’s important for the brain, heart and eyes, than the younger cats.

“None of the foods had ingredient sources of DHA or EPA, another long-chain omega-3, but cats are able to synthesize DHA by elongating and desaturating fatty acids,” Hall said. “The older cats, though, are a lot less efficient at that.”

More potential bad news for the older cats: Their concentrations of sulfated microbial catabolic products – protein-breakdown leftovers that in humans are connected to cardiovascular and kidney disease – were significantly higher.

“Just like with older people, older cats may have a different gut microbiome than younger cats, which would mean different microbial metabolic activities,” Hall said.

Basically, if a younger cat gets more protein than it can use, it can safely deal with and dispose of the excess a lot better than an older cat can.

Source:   Oregon State University

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Is There A Link Between Your Pets and Your Food Choices?

People who grow up with a greater variety of pets are significantly more likely to follow a vegetarian diet as adults, according to research by a professor-student team in the University at Albany psychology department.

Sydney Heiss, graduate student in the department of psychology, worked with assistant professor Julia Hormes to gain a better understanding of the factors that play a role in a person’s decision to refrain from animal products as adults.

pets_and_vegetarians_550(1)

Assistant Professor of Psychology Julia Hormes, left, and graduate student Sydney Heiss, both with their dogs, conducted research on the influence that childhood pets have on a person’s diet choices in adulthood. Photo by State University of New York, Albany

The two recruited study participants from social media webpages focused on food in general, including those focused on vegetarianism and veganism, resulting in a pool of 325 participants with a mean age of 30 years.

Participants provided their demographic information and whether they followed any vegetarian diet, including “flexitarian” (mostly vegetarian, but sometimes eats meat), “semi-vegetarian” (eats some types of meat but refrains from others), “pescetarian” (eats fish, eggs and dairy but refrains from other meat products), “lacto-ovo-vegetarian” (eats eggs and dairy, but refrains from all animal flesh), “vegan” (no animal products whatsoever), and “raw vegan” (consumes exclusively uncooked non-animal products).

Heiss and Hormes then assessed the individual’s beliefs and attitudes regarding the use of animals in food, clothing and research and surveyed them on their ownership and relationship with any childhood pets. Participants were asked about the number and types of their childhood pets, how often they were responsible for their animal(s) care, how close they felt to the animal(s), etc.

After a statistical analyses of all responses, the duo found:

  • Those who owned pets in childhood were significantly more likely than those without pets to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet as an adult.
  • Those who owned a variety of pets (i.e. hamsters, dogs and cats, as opposed to just dogs) were more likely to avoid a wider range of animal products (e.g., refrain from all animal products as opposed to only meat) than those who owned fewer pets.
  • A wider variety of pets led to a stronger opposition towards animal exploitation, which in turn led to less animal product consumption.
  • Closeness to ones’ pet was a significant predictor of a person’s likelihood to refrain from animal products as an adult.

“It seems as though individuals who had different types of pets more easily empathize with farmed animals or those used in research,” said Heiss. “For example, someone who had only a dog may have difficulty feeling empathy for a cow, whereas someone who grew up with farm animals may be more attuned to characteristics that are shared across all species and therefore, better able to empathize with all animals.”

Though research previously existed suggesting a potential link between pet ownership and animal product restriction, Hormes notes there’s a key difference about this most recent study.

“Past research has suggested that closeness to a childhood pet is the key factor that predicts increased empathy and vegetarianism in adulthood,” said Hormes. “Our findings suggest that there may be more than one pathway to vegetarianism in adulthood – the number of pets in childhood, ethical concerns towards animal use, and level of vegetarianism is significant.”

The full study can be read here.

Source:  State University of New York press release

 

Dogs could be more similar to humans than we thought

Dog and human gut microbiomes have more similar genes and responses to diet than we previously thought, according to a study published in the open access journal, Microbiome.

Canine Microbiome

The canine microbiome is quite similar to that of humans. Credit: © Kar Tr / Fotolia

Dr Luis Pedro Coelho and colleagues from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, in collaboration with Nestlé Research, evaluated the gut microbiome of two dog breeds and found that the gene content of the dogs microbiome showed many similarities to the human gut microbiome, and was more similar to humans than the microbiome of pigs or mice.

Dr Luis Pedro Coelho, corresponding author of the study, commented: “We found many similarities between the gene content of the human and dog gut microbiomes. The results of this comparison suggest that we are more similar to man’s best friend than we originally thought.”

The researchers found that changes in the amount of protein and carbohydrates in the diet had a similar effect on the microbiota of dogs and humans, independent of the dog’s breed or sex. The microbiomes of overweight or obese dogs were found to be more responsive to a high protein diet compared to microbiomes of lean dogs; this is consistent with the idea that healthy microbiomes are more resilient.

Dr Luis Pedro Coelho, commented: “These findings suggest that dogs could be a better model for nutrition studies than pigs or mice and we could potentially use data from dogs to study the impact of diet on gut microbiota in humans, and humans could be a good model to study the nutrition of dogs.

“Many people who have pets consider them as part of the family and like humans, dogs have a growing obesity problem. Therefore, it is important to study the implications of different diets.”

The researchers investigated how diet interacted with the dog gut microbiome with a randomized controlled trial using a sample of 64 dogs, half of which were beagles and half were retrievers, with equal numbers of lean and overweight dogs. The dogs were all fed the same base diet of commercially available dog food for four weeks then they were randomized into two groups; one group consumed a high protein, low carb diet and the other group consumed a high carb, low protein diet for four weeks. A total of 129 dog stool samples were collected at four and eight weeks. The researchers then extracted DNA from these samples to create the dog gut microbiome gene catalogue containing 1,247,405 genes. The dog gut gene catalogue was compared to existing gut microbiome gene catalogues from humans, mice and pigs to assess the similarities in gene content and how the gut microbiome responds to changes in diet.

The authors caution that while humans and dogs host very similar microbes, they are not exactly the same microbes, but very closely related strains of the same species.

Source:  Science Daily