Influencing Obesity Genes in Dogs

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Nutrigenomics, the study of how food and nutrition can alter a body’s gene expression, is an interesting and relatively new field of study that can help uncover the true power of food as the first line of disease prevention, or in the case of poor dietary choices, the power of food as a facilitator to disease. There have been some well touted studies performed on dogs that have shown that what a dog eats can have an impact on their genetic expression and their propensity for arthritis, diabetes, and obesity.


In the obesity study, lysine was the nutrient that appeared to have an impact on the obesity genes, although in this study, the food that was used was subpar and included added lysine (vs. lysine from natural whole food sources). It turns out that food’s link to the obesity gene is becoming a popular topic for humans (naturally), and some of this research might provide some clues as to preferred dog food ingredients as well.


Lower Carbohydrate Diets can Impact Obesity Gene Expression

As reported in Science Daily “Feed your genes: How our genes respond to the foods we eat” , the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) reported that diets high in carbs led to an uptake in obesity gene expression in the subject’s bodies. This study used two 6 day diets, one with 65% carbs 15% protein, and 20% fat, and then after a week respite, a 6 day diet with half of the carbs (and proportionally more protein and fat). The subjects were provided enough calories to maintain their current weight and blood tests were performed before and after each diet period.
low carbs

The researchers concluded that even though there was no weight gain by the subjects, their obesity gene markers changed based on the carbohydrates that were eaten during the dietary periods. It was also interesting to note that the change in the bodies’ gene expression occurred rapidly- it took just 6 days of dieting to change the gene expression of the participants. Thus, making dietary adjustments, at least from a macronutrient perspective, can have an immediate impact on the body.


As an interesting side note to this research, the scientists noticed that it was not just the pro-inflammatory obesity genes that were effected by the high carb diets. Genes involved in type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease and some forms of cancer were up-regulated by a carbohydrate-rich diet.


Should I Feed My Dog a Low Carb Diet?

Because of their carnivore ancestry, dogs’ bodies are meant to function on a high protein, high fat, and low carb diet. Taking the leap of faith, it is very possible that a dog’s body might react similarly to a human’s with respect to diet and obesity gene expression. If so, this suggests that the pet obesity problem we have might not be due to overfeeding alone, but also due to overfeeding high carbohydrate foods, which are so prevalent in the commercial pet food industry.


If you believe in feeding your dog a species-appropriate diet, and whether or not you buy into the fact that a high carb diet can impact your dog’s obesity genes, it is worth reexamining the macronutrient profile of your dog’s food. Look for foods that are not full of fillers and have a more reasonable protein to carb ration (at a minimum, close to 1:1).


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  1. interesting, doesn’t beniful or another company have a pasta food for dogs, I guess you don’t want to feed that if you want to keep your dog skinny.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…House Woof Valentine~Mischief MondayMy Profile

  2. Limiting carbs is not just for humans anymore! Great information!
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Dr. Harvey’s Is InMy Profile

  3. Who knew?!! Low carb diets for dogs?! Very interesting!!
    Miley’s Daily Scoop recently posted…Mardi Gras: Fat Tuesday Golden StyleMy Profile

  4. Interesting. We don’t do grain free, but we do eat a healthy diet. Mom is a big carb lover, but it is interesting to hear about no real weight gain, but genes changing. Scary to think about actually. Definitely something to think about.
    Emma recently posted…It’s Mardi Gras Mash TimeMy Profile

  5. Very informative. I was at the vet this weekend and I got told I was slightly overweight, I got a 6/9 for overall body score. This was very interesting. Thank you.
    Buddy recently posted…How Not To Spend Valentine’s DayMy Profile

  6. We have seen such a difference in our boys since going grain free. In fact it inspired the humans to go grain free too…only carbs from fruits and veggies! We all have more energy and fewer fluctuations in weight! Great article, thanks for sharing.
    MyDogLikes recently posted…Nothing But The Best: DoggieDaysBoutique.comMy Profile

  7. Definitely grain free for Sugar. It’s been helpful with all her digestive issues and allergies. Her vets recommends it too. Golden Woofs
    Golden Woofs: Sugar recently posted…Merrick Pet Care: Mardi Gras MashMy Profile

  8. Grain-free all the way for our pups as well!! We make sure to only feed high quality kibble with a high protein & fat content, and a low fiber (= carb) content, usually around 32% protein, 16-18% fat, and no more than 4% carbs.
    Barbara Rivers recently posted…Stuffing A Classic KONG Toy The Healthy Way!My Profile

  9. We are all about the bacon!

  10. Interesting. I have given up analyzing ingredients and am going more by recommendation of peers as to which food works for them. I have found it to be the best guide for what works for our dogs.
    2 Brown Dawgs recently posted…A Pause For A PhotoMy Profile

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