Let’s Chew the Fat about FAT

Dr_Doug_3724_Silo_BLOG_200x200Guest Contributor— Answers Chief Veterinarian, Dr. Doug Knueven, veteran among veterinarians, examines raw nutrition as a healing power of pets and works to ensure an all-encompassing true health (physical, mental and spiritual) regimen in veterinary medicine for animals. Apart of his work with Answers Executive Veterinary Program, he’s a consultant for Answers product and program development, lecturer, and participant on panel discussions.

Demonizing fat.

Answers Raw Pet Foods are higher in fat than most other pet foods – there, I said it. They consist basically of 50% fat and 50% protein. A relatively high-fat diet sounds baaaad. Fat has been demonized as a food constituent since the 1950’s when it was theorized that dietary fat leads obesity (and associated problems) in people. The concept is simple, you eat fat and it goes directly to your beer belly. (Why is it called a beer belly? – there is no fat in beer). Since the start of the war on fat, obesity rates in the US have skyrocketed from 23% in 1962 to 39.6% in 2016. This low-fat thing does not seem to be working.

Fat is the better choice.

It turns out that, SURPRISE!, nutrition is complicated. There are 3 macronutrients in food that provide calories – fat, carbohydrate, and protein. Of these, it is actually excessive dietary carbohydrate that is linked to obesity (and inflammation for that matter). Eating fat leads to better satiety (the feeling of being satisfyingly full) in dogs. A satiated dog is one that does not over-eat. A canine eating empty calories (excessive carbs) is more likely to eat more food and put on weight. As for protein, while it can be used by the body for energy (calories) its ideal purpose in a diet is to build tissue. So, as far as sources of calories go, we have carbs or fat. Fat is the better choice, and dogs instinctively know this. Let’s look at the research.

An ideal macronutrient balance – a closer look.

The relative amounts of fat, carbohydrate, and protein in a diet is called its macronutrient balance. Dietary macronutrient balance in animals has been shown to affect growth rate and size,1,2 obesity,3 longevity,4 and disease resistance.5 It is also known that predators select food based on the macronutrient balance that best assures their survival.6,7

So how can we know the ideal macronutrient balance for dogs? One way is to look at the nutrient selection of our dogs’ closest relative, the wolf. This study8 summarized 50 studies of the diets of wild wolves with the expressed intention of discovering optimal dog nutrition. Wolves eat a diet consisting of a macronutrient balance of 54:45:1, Protein:Fat:Carbohydrate.*

WOLF_CHART_1024x500These researchers go on to say, “The nutritive characteristics of commercial foods differ in several aspects from the dog’s closest free-living ancestor in terms of dietary nutrient profile and this may pose physiological and metabolic challenges.”

Now, another way to find the ideal macronutrient balance for dogs is let them pick it themselves. This study9 did just that. They used 5 diverse breeds: papillon, miniature schnauzer, cocker spaniel, Labrador retriever, and St Bernard. Dogs selected a macronutrient balance of 30:63:7, Protein:Fat:Carbohydrate.*

DOG_CHART_1024x500These researchers go on to say, “… the overriding conclusion is that the recent rapid divergence among dog breeds is not substantially reflected in their macronutrient priorities compared with other phenotypic features such as size, color, and temperament.”

Realizing that no study is perfect, let’s average the above 2 studies to get a macronutrient balance of 42:54:4, Protein:Fat:Carbohydrate.* At least that is an approximation of the ideal balance for dogs.

Just for fun, compare this to the AFFCO standards for dog food which is 19:12:69, Protein:Fat:Carbohydrate.*

AAFCO_CHART_1024x500Wow! Lots of yellow. That’s because carbs are a cheap source of calories.

The bottom line is that the Answers dietary formula is remarkably close to the ideal macronutrient balance for dogs as determined by their own, innate biology. My advice is to ignore conventional “wisdom” and embrace the healthy fat in Answers Raw Pet Foods.

* The level of macronutrients in these studies are expressed as the percentage of calories they provide in the food. This is different that the percentage as fed that is on the pet food label.

 

 

References

  1. Raubenheimer D, Simpson SJ. Integrative models of nutrient balancing: application to insects and vertebrates. Nutr Res Rev. 1997;10:151–179.
  2. Simpson SJ, Sibly RM, Lee KP, Behmer ST, Raubenheimer D. Optimal foraging when regulating intake of multiple nutrients. Anim Behav. 2004; 68:1299–1311.
  3. Simpson SJ, Raubenheimer D. Obesity: the protein leverage hypothesis. Obes Rev 2005; 6:133–142.
  4. Piper MDW, Partridge L, Raubenheimer D, Simpson SJ. Dietary restriction and aging: a unifying perspective. Cell Metab. 2011;14:154–160.
  5. Cotter SC, Simpson SJ, Raubenheimer D, Wilson K. Macronutrient balance mediates trade-offs between immune function and life history traits. Funct Ecol. 2010; 25:186–198.
  6. Mayntz D, Nielsen VH, Sørensen A, Toft S, Raubenheimer D, Hejlesen C, Simpson SJ. Balancing of protein and lipid by a mammalian carnivore, the mink (Mustela vison). Anim Behav 2009; 77:349–355.

 

 


The Big Fat Truth about dietary fat and domesticated pets (it’s not what you thought)

Billy_Profile_200x200Guest Contributor— Answers Pet Food Nutrition Science Director, Billy Hoekman, is involved in Answers diet formulation, research, product development, as well as working with farms and fermented raw feeding science education. Leading Answers Executive Veterinary Program, Billy specializes in developing fermented raw diets that pertain to specific health conditions.

 

We’re busting the anti-fat myths to help our furry best friends.

Forget the “fat facts” you think you know, read somewhere, or that you applied from your own human diet perspective. Because the truth is, a balance of fats is actually crucial to canine and feline good health. Read that again: it’s crucial.

Offer fats for your beloved pet? Yes. Really, yes. And science tells us why.

So, it’s time to break down the anti-fat myths that can actually be harming your trusty companion and show you a better, healthier way to feed the fuzzy faces you love best.

 

Big Fat mistakes that can harm your dog’s or cat’s health

Largely due to misinformation, people have turned dietary fat into a scary bogeyman in canine and feline nutrition.

Maybe you’re committed to making your own diet at home for your pet, following what you thought was a good “prey model” diet recipe. Unfortunately, these homemade “prey diets” are actually often problematic interpretations of what is needed, resulting in a diet that’s going to be too high in protein in relation to the amount of fat.

So, okay, maybe you use a commercially prepared diet in your quest for a better choice. There are many out there vying for your attention with good intentions, and great promises. But is your commercial choice using carnivore-inappropriate vegetable oils? Oops. That’s actually another big “no” for your pet’s health.

You can see how easy it is for anyone to make mistakes with the best intentions while trying to create a healthily balanced diet for their furry companion. We read information that may seem solid and reasonable, but that is based more on myth, assumptions and hearsay than real science.

Unfortunately for the misinformed pet owner, and their pets, the cost of believing these myths, in health terms, is much too high.

That’s why we rely on science.

 

The Big Fat Truth, from the wolf’s mouth

Wolves are carnivores. They eat large animals. They eat small animals. In the wild, wolves’ diets vary by location, by season, by what’s available to them and by other environmental factors. But whatever animal prey they manage to catch and eat, that animal has skin plus a layer of subcutaneous tissue. This is a layer of fat that helps regulate the animal’s body temperature and helps protect bones and muscles from injuries.

Since the hungry wolf is going to eat as much of its prey as it can, skin included, the fat content of what they are eating is dramatically raised. That’s Mother Nature’s plan.

This works out well for the wolf.

And as life would have it, it works well for their canine ancestor (your dog’s!) body too.

 

Dog teeth being examined by the animal doctor

Carnivores feed on animal tissues, large mouth opening, long sharp canines, sharp jagged blade shaped molars, little to no chewing, gulp food whole pieces.

What we know from evolutionary diets of cats

Like the domesticated dog, cats have dental and biological characteristics that conclude they are carnivores. Unlike dogs, cats are actually obligate carnivores which takes it a step further— cats diets require nutrients found only in animal flesh. Animal tissue, unlike food from plants, is low in carbohydrates and contains an excess of protein and fat. Their essential biological need for high protein, fat, and essential amino acids such as arginine and taurine, is a requirement for them to live and thrive.

 

Pets big fat needs

Domestic dogs and cats use protein to rebuild muscle. They use fat for energy. That’s simple biology.

What they don’t have, though, is a biological need for carbohydrates. Carbs aren’t found in the natural wild diet of dogs or wolves: there are no dog biscuit bushes in the wild. There’s no kibble field along the river. Cats don’t stalk corn (see what we did there?).

Nature also gives dogs and cats a built-in propensity to store energy. If you have an active fun-loving pet, you know this storehouse is a serious thing. Fat gives pets what it needs to have and store energy.

But when a dog’s or cat’s diet doesn’t have enough fat but does contain carbohydrates, guess what happens? Their body will store carbohydrates for energy. To get the right amount of energy takes twice as many carbs, weight-wise, compared to fat. That’s a lot of carbs.

What’s important is this: storing the right amount of good fat doesn’t make the pet fat. But storing that big double-load of carbohydrates does make your pet obese.

The recent upswing in pet obesity is directly related to the increase in carbohydrate-rich plant ingredients in modern pet foods. It all sounds good on the label, but…

The other end of the doggy and kitty danger zone: many of the incorrectly designed “prey model” diets relay on lean meats are actually deficient in both fats and carbohydrates. This is a big negative for your pet’s health, because now their body is forced to try to use protein to create energy, creating extra nitrogen that has to be processed by the kidneys, and that’s extremely tough on the kidneys.

Starting to get the picture? The big fat myths about fat are a dangerous thing for our beloved pets.

 

 

 

British Journal of Nutrition, Volume 113, Issue S1. January 2015 , pp. S40-S54.
Guido Bosch (a1). Esther A. Hagen-Plantinga (a2). Wouter H. Hendriks (a1) (a2)
(a1) 1  Animal Nutrition Group, Wageningen University, PO Box 338, 6700 AH Wageningen, The Netherlands. (a2) 2  Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, PO Box 80.151, 3508 TD Utrecht, The Netherlands

James G. Morris. Idiosyncratic nutrient requirements of cats appear to be diet-induced evolutionary adaptations. Nutrition Research Reviews (2002), 15, 153–168 DOI: 10.1079/NRR200238. Department of Molecular Biosciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA