Hi stranger! Signing up for MypetMD is easy, free and puts the most relevant content at your fingertips.

Get Instant Access To

  • 24/7 alerts for pet-related recalls

  • Your own library of articles, blogs, and favorite pet names

  • Tools designed to keep your pets happy and healthy



or Connect with Facebook

By joining petMD, you agree to the Privacy Policy.


petMD Blogs

Written by leading veterinarians to provide you with the information you need to care for your pets.

Subscribe to
Nutrition Nuggets
 
 
Your dog's nutrition is important for a healthy & happy life. petMD experts help you to know what to feed your dog, how much food to feed, and the differences in dog foods, so your dog gets optimum nutrition.
Nutrition Nuggets is the newest offshoot of petMD's Dog Nutrition Center. Each week Dr. Coates will use her expertise and wisdom to blog about the intricacies of dog nutrition.

When Dogs Eat May be Important for Weight Loss

February 15, 2013 / (2) comments

Have you heard of the term "circadian metabolism?"

I just ran across it skimming through a study that looked into whether or not the timing of a mouse’s meals had an effect on its body weight (more on this later). Essentially, animals have an endogenous clock within their bodies that responds to environmental light-dark cycles. This "clock" is not just a part of our brains (which is how I always thought about circadian rhythms in general), it is also a part of the peripheral tissues (e.g., liver, intestines, and fat) that determine how animals use the nutrients and energy they (we) take in. The clock exerts its effect by modulating the expression and activity of enzymes that are involved in metabolic processes.

This concept has led researchers to ask whether when animals eat affects what eventually happens to what they eat. It’s a reasonable question since different metabolic pathways are most active at different times of the day.

Back to the paper on mice. Scientists had found that feeding an ad libitum (i.e., free feeding), high fat diet to mice "disrupted the circadian expression of metabolic factors" and led to obesity. In this study, the researchers determined that timing the feedings of a high-fat (HF) diet more or less eliminated its harmful effects:

Although timed HF-diet-fed& mice consumed the same amount of calories as ad libitum low-fat diet-fed mice, they showed 12% reduced body weight, 21% reduced cholesterol levels, and 1.4-fold increased insulin sensitivity. Compared with the HF diet ad libitum, the timed HF diet led to 18% lower body weight, 30% decreased cholesterol levels … and 3.7-fold improved insulin sensitivity … Taken together, our findings suggest that timing can prevent obesity and rectify the harmful effects of a HF diet.

This correlates well with a study in people that received wide-spread attention in January of this year. Paraphrasing the paper’s abstract:

Participants were grouped in early eaters and late eaters, according to the timing of the main meal (lunch in this Mediterranean population). 51% of the subjects were early eaters and 49% were late eaters (lunch time before and after 1500 hours [3 p.m.], respectively). Late lunch eaters lost less weight and displayed a slower weight-loss rate during the 20 weeks of treatment than early eaters. Surprisingly, energy intake, dietary composition, estimated energy expenditure, appetite hormones and sleep duration was similar between both groups. Nevertheless, late eaters were more evening types, had less energetic breakfasts and skipped breakfast more frequently that early eaters (all; P<0.05). Eating late may influence the success of weight-loss therapy.

Neither of these papers directly addresses the question of whether when a dog eats could improve his chances of losing weight. (That would be a fantastic study … any takers out there?) But, if you are feeding your overweight dog an appropriate number of calories and are not seeing the expected results, changing when you feed would certainly be worth a try. Start by feeding most of the calories early in the day, and if an evening meal is necessary for behavioral reasons, keep it as small as possible.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Sources

Timed high-fat diet resets circadian metabolism and prevents obesity. Sherman H, Genzer Y, Cohen R, Chapnik N, Madar Z, Froy O. FASEB J. 2012 Aug;26(8):3493-502.

Timing of food intake predicts weight loss effectiveness. Garaulet M, Gómez-Abellán P, Alburquerque-Béjar JJ, Lee YC, Ordovás JM, Scheer FA. Int J Obes (Lond). 2013 Jan 29.

Image: Suslik1983 / via Shutterstock

Subscribe to Nutrition Nuggets

Comments  2

Leave Comment
  • weight loss study
    02/15/2013 11:03am

    My Shiba is a bit on the porky side. He currently weighs 30 lbs. and is 7yoa so he's not too overweight but he needs to slim down. He is a free feeder for the last 2 years. I feed him blue buffalo lamb. I went free feeding because he's never been a pig. When I fed him once a day he would nibble all day until it was gone, most days, but if he hadn't finished his food I would throw away the next day even though it was a dry food.

  • Experiments
    02/15/2013 05:14pm

    I would be curious if the timing of meals corresponded with resting. Those of us that eat later in the evening may not be night owls and go to sleep soon after eating.

    Any thoughts on eating late and remaining active for several hours? That might hold true for our critters, too.

 



ABOUT NUTRITION NUGGETS

JENNIFER COATES, DVM

Photo of Jennifer

... graduated with honors from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1999. In the years since, she has practiced veterinary medicine in Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado. She is the author of several books about veterinary medicine and animal care, including the Dictionary of Veterinary Terms, Vet-Speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian .

Jennifer also writes short stories that focus on the strength and importance of the human-animal bond and freelance articles relating to a variety of animal care and veterinary topics. Dr. Coates lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband, daughter, and pets.

  • Lifetime Credits:
  • Today's Credits:
Hurry Before All Seats are Taken!
Enroll
Be an A++ Pet Parent! Take fun & free courses to earn badges & certifications. Choose a course»

Poll

How often do you read the label on your dog’s food?


 
MORE FROM PETMD.COM