Is intermittent fasting also healthy for our four-legged friends?

Article by SoLongevity Research
Dogs that eat only once a day seem to retain their cognitive abilities longer and generally have better health status

What this article is about

  • So-called intermittent fasting is an ally of healthy aging for humans
  • A study assessed whether the same may also apply to dogs, using data collected as part of the Dog Aging Project Consortium
  • Dogs that receive food only once a day have been found to be less prone to cognitive decline and healthier overall

Our health, and therefore also the way we age, is strongly influenced by our diet, of this we are certain. But it’s not just what we eat that matters: there are now several studies claiming that intermittent fasting can have beneficial effects, such as reducing the risk of developing diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

According to the most recent research, it is suggested specifically to eat one’s meals within an 11-12 hour time window, letting our bodies fast for the remaining 12-13 hours. But will the same be true for our four-legged friends? Apparently, yes. Dogs that receive food only once a day, rather than more frequently, are the healthiest. Asking the question was a group of researchers from various U.S. universities and research institutions, in collaboration with the Dog Aging Project Consortium, whose work was published in the scientific journal Geroscience.

What is the Dog Aging Project Consortium?

This is a research project that began in 2019 with the goal of collecting as much data as possible to identify biological and environmental factors that influence the health of pet dogs. Studying these animals, as can be read on the site dedicated to the project, is interesting both in itself, that is, for the health of the dogs themselves, and for the possible implications that new knowledge can have on human health.In fact, dogs have much in common with us, starting from the environment in which they live to the fact that they are large mammals. Among the studies published under this project, one, for example, focused on analyzing the occurrence of the so-called “canine cognitive dysfunction” (or CCD), a condition that in many ways resembles Alzheimer’s disease.“The parallels observed between CCD and AD [Alzheimer’s Disease, ed],” the authors explain in the article published in Scientific Reports – suggest that dogs with CCD may offer researchers a valuable animal model in which to study the characteristics of neurodegenerative diseases.” In the opinion of experts dealing with these issues, one advantage would be, for example, the fact that dogs have shorter average lifespans than we do, and because of this, the progression of some diseases occurs more rapidly in dogs than in humans and is therefore easier to observe and analyze.

Dogs that eat only once a day seem to retain their cognitive abilities longer and generally have better health status

Why is it better to feed your dog only once a day?

Returning instead to the topic ofnutrition, the researchers used data collected through the Dog Aging Project to understand if and what kind of association there is between the maintenance of cognitive function in dogs and the frequency with which they receive food throughout the day. According to the results of the study, which considered data on more than 10 thousand dogs of different breeds, genders and ages, those fed once a day have, on average, lower scores on a scale that measures cognitive dysfunction than those who receive food several times a day. Based on the scale taken into consideration, the difference between the two groups is equal to the average difference between a 7-year-old dog and an 11-year-old dog.

Not only that, analyzing other parameters as well (in this case related to the data of over 24 thousand dogs) showed that the overall health status is better for dogs that eat only once a day.That group is in fact less likely to develop diseases of the gastrointestinal system, disorders of the teeth, bones and joints, as well as kidney, liver and pancreas problems. In their conclusions, the researchers point out that these are preliminary results that have some limitations, related, for example, to the fact that the data regarding feeding were provided by the dogs’ owners and were not collected directly by the researchers themselves. At the same time, the analyses appear to be in line with other previously published studies. So we will have to wait for further confirmation to draw the final conclusions, but perhaps filling Fido’s bowl once a day might prove to be a good habit to keep him healthy!

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