Pet Food’s New Frontier: Nutrigenomics

Ken Tudor, DVM
Published: October 03, 2014
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Hippocrates said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” He knew that nutrition was the foundation for a healthy life. But more than that, he realized that it was substances in food that was key. What he didn’t know is how that key unlocked the power within the food we eat. Nutrigenomics has unlocked that mystery. This science will revolutionize dietary management for ourselves and our pets.

What is Nutrigenomics?

We now know the entire human, canine and feline genetic code. We also have technological advances that allow us to look at the expression of genes to stimuli in real, nanosecond time. This means we can actually measure the effects of chemicals on the DNA of the cell. Nutrigenomics looks at these gene expression changes as a result of chemicals in foods. It identifies positive or negative responses to substances in foods. This information has verified some long standing beliefs in the benefits from certain foods and unmasked the failure of purported beliefs about other foods.

Dog Food Example of Nutrigenomics

Recently a well-known commercial producer of veterinary weight loss diets for dogs and cats introduced some new products. The company presented the results of what they had achieved with these products at the latest Academy of Veterinary Internal Medicine Symposium that I recently attended in Nashville, Tennessee. They documented more fat loss and less muscle loss during weight loss using their proprietary diet blend.

Fat loss is desirable during dieting. Muscle loss is not desirable because muscles are the leading source of caloric expenditure during dieting. But traditional weight loss diets involve muscle loss. This loss contributes to decreased calorie expenditure during dieting and contributes to the weight plateaus or even weight gain during the dieting process. The most effective weight loss diet would maximize fat loss while sparing muscle mass. And that was the aim of this company’s new diet formulation.

Utilizing nutrigenomic analysis, their compelling results suggested that specific amounts of tomato pumice, coconut oil, and the amino acids L-lysine, L-carnitine, and L-leucine triggered a favorable genetic change during a calorie restricted diet. The response of the cellular nucleus to the chemicals in these ingredients and these amino acids induced DNA to turn on genes that preferentially burned fat while preserving muscle.

The data presented by the company is definitely limited and much more long term study is needed, but the power of this new science, nutrigenomics, is great stuff. This is especially true for those of us dedicated to homemade diets.


Nutrigenomics and Homemade Pet Food

At this point in time, most nutrigenomic information is proprietary and patented. The company above has made certain that their formula is protected. But this information will eventually become more readily available as the science becomes more commonplace. As it does, I will certainly incorporate these ingredients, in appropriate amounts, in my homemade diet programs so the power of nutrigenomics is available for your dog’s nutrition and greater health.

For years, many have advocated for the inclusion of certain foods in our and our pet’s diets. With nutrigenomics we can now objectively analyze these claims and truly choose foods that in fact contain chemicals that can favorably alter our metabolism.

Dr. Ken Tudor

Image: Denys Kurbatov / Shutterstock