What we eat and how much of it we eat can have a major impact on our overall health and lifespan. The same is true for our dogs. Our decisions on which foods to buy, and how much to serve at each meal, will have a marked impact on the dog’s overall health and wellness.
If you or your pet needs to lose (or gain) weight, the single biggest driver to accomplishing the weight change is creating a calorie deficit, for weight loss, and a calorie surplus, for weight gain. If a body is burning more calories than it consumes, over time, a weight loss will occur. The reverse is true for weight gain.
Yet, there are other ways that food can have an impact on our pet’s weight, and for that matter, their overall health. Functional foods are foods that provide health benefits over and above basic nutrition. In the case of obesity, there have been several studies that show how specific ingredients or macronutirent profiles can alter gene expression in a body. Because obesity is an inflammatory disease, it turns out that foods that can help prevent obesity (either through gene expression or through other means) can also provide a plethora of other potential benefits. One such food is curcumin, or in its more common form, turmeric.
What is Turmeric
Turmeric, responsible for the yellow/orange color of Indian curry and mustard, is derived from the underground stems of the plant Curcuma longa, which is a member of the ginger family. Curcumin, which has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, is the most active constituent of turmeric and primarily responsible for turmeric’s health benefits.
Health Benefits of Curcumin
Besides having an influence on obesity genes (more on this below), curcumin has been shown to provide many health benefits, stemming from its strong anti-inflammatory properties. Some of the benefits of curcumin include:
- Relieves symptoms of osteoarthritis
- Acts as a cancer inhibitor
- Helps in the treatment of some forms of cancer (colon cancer- where it appears to induce programmed death of the cancer cells)
- Reduces gastrointestinal distress
As if these benefits are not enough, there have been studies showing that curcumin can aid in the prevention of obesity.
In a review study published in 2010, Bharat B. Aggarwal found that scientific evidence shows that curcumin can impact obesity gene expression. The author concluded that curcumin can downregulate genes linked to obesity and reduce inflammatory processes in the body that are symptomatic of obesity. In his conclusion, Aggarawal states that:
These curcumin-induced alterations reverse insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, and other symptoms linked to obesity. Said another way, curcumin appears to curtail obesity as well as the symptoms associated with obesity.
This is one powerful spice for sure.
Turmeric in Dog Food
Turmeric is used in some commercially available dog foods and treats. It appears in almost 5% of dog foods, although I notice that many of these occurrences are in foods falling under the Blue Buffalo brand. In my opinion, this spice should be much more prevalent due to its myriad benefits and the fact that it can act as a flavor enhancer as well. When we launch our dog food brand, you can bet it will be part of our recipes! That said, because it is a spice, turmeric is easy to add to any food. Keep a spice shaker full of turmeric handy, and sprinkle a dab into the food bowl before each of your dog’s meals.