Food & Fitness After 50: Weight Management….for your pets!

Sasmon food bowl
Samson, sleeping in his food bowl, after starting his “diet.”

Samson, my German Shepherd, never met a meal he didn’t like (that goes for socks, too, but that’s another story). When he tipped the scales at 105 pounds, our vet, Dr. Matthew Keifer, gently reminded us that German Shepherd dogs are prone to hip problems, so it would be best keep Samson under 100 pounds. We heeded his advice, despite Samson’s obvious desire for more food, today he is a svelte 93 pounds.

 

2017+U.S.+Pet+Obesity+InfographicWe are all aware of high obesity rates in humans. The most recent figures from the CDC report the prevalence of obesity in adults is 39.8%. But, another report caught my eye from ConscienHealth showing the rising rates of obesity in our dogs and cats. A report from a pet insurance company showed that they paid out $69 million for obesity-related veterinary care last year. Since less than 2% of pet owners have insurance for their furry friends, the dollar amount for obesity-related care is bound to be much higher.

The Association for Pet Obesity (#sad that we need such an organization) reports 2017 data showing that 56% of dogs and 60% of cats are clinically overweight. And, that takes a toll on their health.

I reached out to Dr. Leah Dorman, who, along with her colleague, helped me understand what we can do to keep our pets at a healthy weight. Here are their top 10 tips for controlling weight (these are for dogs and cats, but some of these work well for humans, too!)

  1. Many of us don’t realize our pets are overweight, so Dr. Dorman likes to show this chart to help clients identify if their pet is at a healthy weight. Body condition scoring helps the vet determine obesity and is another tool besides just scale weight. “An extra 30 pounds on a 65-pound Labrador is equivalent to an extra 75 pounds on a 154-pound woman,” making us appreciate how weight can affect a dog’s health.
  2. In addition to the medical conditions shown in the chart, dogs can show issues with CONSEQUENCES+OF+EXCESS+FAT+IN+DOGS+&+CATS+(1)their knee ligaments as the excess weight puts a burden on joints (just like it does in humans.) Losing even a small amount of weight can make a big difference in the mobility of an arthritic pet. Obese cats have a higher incidence of diabetes and dogs who are fed lots of people food can experience pancreatitis.

3. Assess your pet’s eating routine and the family’s feeding habits. Dr. Dorman recommend feeding the amount that keeps the pet in tip-top shape, based on body condition scoring.  Portion control is important. “A little poodle is only about 5% of an owner’s body weight, so adjust any people food they are given accordingly,” says Dr. Dorman. This link can help you identify treats for pets compared to human foods.

4. For pets who are not very active, consider feeding “less active” pet foods for a less calorie dense diet that allows the pet to still feel full.

5. Treats are OK, just limit the amounts of treats. Or, find low-cal treats like carrots or green beans if your pet will eat them. Be careful about table scraps; “calories can add up quickly and it’s often done on the sly by family members…it’s so hard to resist those begging puppy or kitty eyes watching every bite you take.  Be strong!  Your pet’s health depends on it!”

6. In households where there are multiple people feeding the pet, put all the treats and food for the pet into a Ziplock bag labeled Sunday through Saturday. When the bag is empty, they are done for the day.

7. Limit or eliminate canned food. “Try green beans; cut a pet’s food back by 20% and replace that volume with green beans.”

8. “Dogs are feast or famine eaters… their ancestors would go out, catch something then gorge themselves then not eat for a few days. It is normal for pets to eat well one day and not the next.” So, avoid the temptation to doctor up their food to tempt them to eat.

9. “Stop feeding them when they beg!!! You are rewarding a bad behavior.  It’s like giving your kid a candy bar in the checkout line when they are wailing at the top of their lungs even though you said no six times already.  You cave to the begging behavior and you bet they will be back to beg.”

10. Be aware of the calories in the pet treats. “A large busy bone has over 700 calories and an average size dog treat has about 110 calories- about the number of calories in a chocolate chip cookie. It’s OK to have one, but not 10 each day!”

Samson 2015
A sleek Samson at 93 pounds

Dr. Leah Dorman is Doctor of Veterinarian Medicine and is the Director, Food Integrity & Consumer Engagement with Phibro Animal Health Corporation. Follow her on twitter @askDrDorman and terrific blog, found by clicking here.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.

Food & Fitness After 50: Clearing the Confusion on Probiotic Supplements

intestinal-gut-bacteria-balancing-microbiomeA friend asked a simple question, “should I take a probiotic supplement?” I wish there was a simple “yes” or “no” answer, as I’m sure that is what she wanted. But, as with many questions in nutrition, the answer is it depends. It depends on:

  • What is the reason for taking a probiotic supplement?
  • Is there a specific health problem that you are trying to alleviate by taking a probiotic supplement?
  • What dietary sources of probiotics are you consuming? And, is your diet rich in not only probiotics, but prebiotics and dietary fiber? Diets high in fat, sugar, and excess alcohol do not promote the good bacteria in our guts, while a diet rich in fiber, fruits, vegetables, pro-and prebiotics contribute to a healthy balance of bacteria in our guts. (For more information on dietary sources of pre-and probiotics, click here and here.)

I had the chance to ask Dr. Anthony Thomas, Director of Scientific Affairs for Jarrow Formulas* to help us  navigate the landscape on probiotic supplements. First, let’s understand that probiotics won’t completely alter your gut microbiome because “probiotics do not sustainably colonize the adult gut, but should be thought of as temporary, transient residents that interact with the body and its microbial ecosystem to influence function and health,” according to Dr. Thomas.

Let’s start with the definition of probiotics:

  • “Live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host” (WHO/FAO definition).

The key words in that sentence, according to Dr. Thomas are live when administered, adequate amounts, and health benefit.

He explained that the probiotic has to be live when you take it. How do you know? “Choose products that include the “Best Used Before Date” date and avoid products that declare potency “at time of manufacture,” as this measurement does not reflect the amount still alive when purchased and consumed. A transparent, quality manufacturer lists the guaranteed minimum number of live cells, measured in CFUs, per serving when stored as recommended and used prior to the “best used before date.” Dr. Thomas goes on to explain that while probiotics don’t really expire, but the number of live cells may not meet label claims if not stored as stated on the label and used beyond that date. The “time at manufacture” almost certainly over represents the quantity of live cells because the normal manufacturing process results in some die-off of live probiotics.

probiotic_identification_graph
Identification chart courtesy of Jarrow Formulas

Adequate amounts mean not only quantity of probiotics in a supplement, but quality. “Probiotics are strain, dose, and condition specific.” Strains should be designated on a supplement label, so you know what you are getting. Dr. Thomas explains, “not all strains perform equally, and more strains are not better, better strains are better.” For example, if looking for a supplement to help with bowel issues, Lactobacillus (genus) plantarum (species) 229v (strain) is clinically proven to reduce bowel discomfort at dosing of 10 to 20 billion live cells daily.” The probiotic identification chart illustrates the difference between genus, species, and strain in a way that is understandable to those of us who might have forgotten what we learned in biology!

And, that leads us to the last part of the definition, health benefits. A probiotic must be studied to know if it conveys a health benefit. If a label simply says something like 40 billion CFU with 16 probiotic strains, it may or may not be clinically relevant. “Don’t be swayed by a large number of colony forming units (CFUs is how probiotics are measured). What you really want is the right strain in the right amounts,” says Dr. Thomas.

There are a lot of resources to help consumers know if a probiotic meets the definition from the International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP). It takes some homework to take the guess work out, but if you are going to pay good money for a supplement, isn’t it worth knowing that it has evidence to support it will do what you want it to do?

I think this statement from the ISAPP sums up what we know, “probiotics are not a “cure all” and it is not necessary to take them to be healthy. But they may help you even if you are generally healthy. Probiotics will have different benefits – look for a product with studies that support the benefit you want.”

Dr. Thomas cautions us to be aware of “disingenuous marketing masquerading as education” for some probiotic supplements. A product claiming to be “ancient” might sound impressive, but if the product doesn’t list the strains, 100 billion CFUs per serving is meaningless.

Resources:

To learn more about a specific supplement check out the Clinical Guide to Probiotic Produces Available in the USA to help you understand the evidence supporting a probiotic supplement.

And, here is a link to helpful infographics on probiotics from ISAPP.

*I heard Dr. Thomas speak at a sponsored food and nutrition conference, but I was neither asked nor compensated to write this post.