Archive for January 18th, 2008

In my spare time, I often research feline nutrition – yes, I’m THAT much of a super geeky crazy cat lady.

Every so often, I run into an item of information that doesn’t make sense to me.  What I love about what I understand about feline nutrition is it makes sense – it’s logical!  An obligate (true) carnivore, evolved from a desert species, needs meat and moisture.  Even my simplistic mind can get a grip on that!  As my nutritional heroes say – this isn’t rocket science!

So, it bugged me when I discovered taurine requirements were lower for dry food than wet food.  Why?  WHY?

For those that don’t read articles on pet food in their spare time – taurine is an amino acid.  (An amino acid is a component of protein.)  Most species (including humans and dogs) can manufacture enough taurine on their own, so it’s not an essential amino acid for them.  Not cats, one of the facts distinguishing them as true obligate (strict) carnivores rather than an opportunistic carnivore (meaning they’ll eat meat if they can get it – but they can also survive, even thrive, on plant proteins.)

Interesting little sidenote – when cat food was first created, it was basically dog food – made into smaller cans or smaller kibble pieces.  In the 1980’s a researcher was studying heart disease in cats when he found that nearly all his patients were deficient in taurine levels.  When he supplemented taurine, they improved.  Thus, pet food manufacturers began supplementing cat foods with taurine.  Turns out taurine, which naturally occurs in raw meat, is easily destroyed by cooking.  It also oxidizes quickly once meat is ground – and may be degraded by freezing.

So, back to my ponderable.  Why is less taurine needed if cats are on a dry diet?  WHY?

Well, in doing some other research – I found a great recent study on carbohydrate malabsorption.  The study found that carbohydrate malabsorption was a common feature in IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) in felines.  That didn’t surprise me in the least.  In my experience (with five cats with IBD so far – either adopted or fostered), foods containing high levels of carbohydrate (such as dry food) were not tolerated well at all.  Again, cats are obligate carnivores – they’re not designed to eat carbohydrates, they’re designed to eat protein and fat.  They have absolutely no nutritional requirement for ANY carbohydrate. 

Then, reading another study, one of the items they noted was that cats on antibiotics required less taurine than cats that weren’t on antibiotics.  Through some research, they concluded that taurine was in some way utilized by the healthy gastro-intestinal (GI) bacteria.  Antibiotics, as we know, kill off not only unhealthy bacteria, but healthy ones as well.  So, by having less GI bacteria, the cats needed less taurine.

LIGHT BULB MOMENT:  So… if carbohydrates may affect GI bacteria (as indicated by malabsorption), and dry foods are naturally higher in carbohydrates (as a starch is required to process those little kibbles), and GI bacteria utilize more taurine – then it makes sense that less taurine is needed in dry foods because dry foods are probably damaging the healthy GI bacteria that would otherwise utilize the taurine!

YAY!  I think I get it!  Or, at least I have a theory – and I’m always happier having a theory, even if it may ultimately be proved incorrect – than I am just being clueless.

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Sugar Rehab

I’m on Day Five of a self-imposed “Sugar Addiction Rehab”.  I’ve gone from wanting to eat my arm, to merely gnaw on my arm, to just a little licking.  Seriously, this is teeth-gritting hard for me.  I LOVE my sugar!  I love my pastries!  I love my cookies!  I love my candy bars!  I love my sugary chocolatey coffee beverages!  But, I’ve gained yet another ten pounds since October and I felt dangerously close to being unable to tie my own shoes.  So, here I am – an intervention of sorts.

Day one really stunk.  I cheated a little and had some “no sugar added” hot chocolate mid-afternoon.

Day two was less bad.  I thought ahead and bought a fruit at lunch to snack on later.

Day three and four were better. 

Today, there was cake for a coworker’s anniversary.  I decided it best not to even LOOK at that cake.  Still, I noticed later there was one lonely piece sitting in the training room uneaten.  Calling to me sadly “Oh, Lynette!  Why don’t you like me?  Why must I sit here, feeling neglected and drying out.  Whyever have you forsaken me?”  I walked by quickly and tried to ignore its pleas.

I am most certainly not being perfect about this.  The oatmeal I’m eating has 10 grams of sugar in it, according to the box.  No “sugar” listed in the ingredients, but suspicious items like “cane juices”.  Would those be SUGAR cane juices?   Still, I believe in pragmatism and realism, and if I impose unrealistic goals I know I’ll fall on my face (in a pile of cookies, I hope) so I’m just avoiding the really-bad-no-nutritional-value-but-oh-so-delicious sugary delights.

Once I’ve semi-conquered that I can attack the other stuff… like “normal person” portions.  Baby steps!

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