The study ran seven and a half years and involved 90 healthy adult cats from the ages of seven to 17.
The kitties were separated into three dietary groups as follows:
- Group 1 was fed a commercial "complete and balanced senior diet"
- Group 2 was fed the same diet + antioxidants
- Group 3 was fed the same diet + antioxidants, oils, and a prebiotic
The cats in the third group showed the following results:
- Fewer decreases in lean muscle mass
- Improved body weight, lean body mass, skin thickness and red cell quality
- Decreased incidence of disease
- General improvement in quality of life
- Significantly longer life span
I love these study results!
I'm very encouraged to see an ever-growing body of evidence pointing to the absolute fact that good nutrition is the foundation for vibrant health and a long life – not just for people, but for their pets, too.
I'm also pleased whenever research is done involving kitties. Companion cats outnumber dogs by a wide margin in the U.S., but they continue to take a back seat to dogs when it comes to issues of health. Kitties don't see the veterinarian as often as their canine counterparts, and funding for research into feline health and longevity is sparse.
The drawback to the Feline Longevity Study is the "complete and balanced senior diet" used was a commercially prepared, highly processed cat food. It was probably a dry food at that, since the commercial diet formulation resulting from the study appears to be a pouched food.
If adding antioxidants, healthy fats and other nutritional supplements to a low grade processed kibble can make an impact on the well-being of middle aged and older kitties, imagine what a species-appropriate, nutritionally balanced homemade diet could mean to the quality and length of your own kitty's life.
A Very Short Course in How Free Radicals Damage Health
Most health-conscious people know that free radicals are bad. But have you ever wondered just what a free radical is?
The stable molecules in your cat's body (and yours) contain an even number of electrons.
Free radicals are unstable molecules with an uneven number of electrons. They travel freely around the body looking to bond with stable molecules in order to steal an electron and stabilize themselves. When they are successful, they create new unstable molecules with uneven numbers of electrons.
And the process starts all over again.
From this description it's easy to imagine the snowball effect free radicals can produce inside your kitty. The accumulation of free radical damage creates the oxidative stress that causes aging, degenerative disease and cancer.
The Simple Brilliance of Antioxidants
Antioxidants are also molecules. They gobble up toxic free radicals floating around in your cat's body before they can harm healthy cells and tissue, thereby reducing oxidative stress and DNA damage.
Antioxidants play a key role in longevity, and high levels of circulating antioxidants are commonly seen in the "oldest old" among us.
Antioxidants are contained in the vitamins in fresh foods, including:
- Vitamin A and carotinoids … found in bright colored fruits and veggies like apricots, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, peaches, squash, sweet potatoes and tomatoes.
- Vitamin C … found in citrus fruits and strawberries. Also green peppers, broccoli, and green leafy vegetables.
- Vitamin E … found in nuts, seeds and whole grains.
- Selenium … found in protein sources like fish, chicken, beef, and eggs.
Phytochemicals also contain antioxidant properties:
- Flavonoids/polyphenols are in grapes, cranberries and tea.
- Lycopene is in tomatoes and watermelon.
- Lutein sources are dark green vegetables like spinach, broccoli and kale.
- Lignan is found in flax seed and certain other grains.
Fresh Food and Your Kitty
Like you, your cat should get his antioxidants primarily from a nutritionally balanced diet rather than from vitamin supplements. His body is designed to absorb nutrients from fresh, living foods very efficiently.
Most commercially available pet foods, even those of very high quality, contain synthetic vitamins and minerals which do not provide an optimum level of nutrition for kitties.
One excellent way to be completely sure your cat is getting all the nutrients he needs to remain healthy into old age is to prepare a balanced homemade diet from recipes like the ones in my cookbook, Real Food for Healthy Dogs and Cats.
In this book, which I co-wrote with pet nutrition expert Beth Taylor, you'll find:
- Easy-to-follow directions for preparing balanced, species-specific diets – cooked or raw
- Food storage do's and don'ts to insure your kitty is always eating safe, nutritious food
- Which foods should be included in your pet's diet – and which should not
- Information on how to include healthy fatty acids, antioxidants, digestive enzymes, pre- and probiotics
- Instructions on how to evaluate and incorporate commercial frozen pet food into your cat's diet
What Are You Waiting For?
Your feline family member isn't getting any younger, and she might be aging faster than you realize if her current diet isn't providing the antioxidants and other nutrients she needs.
Why not give that little fur-covered body of hers the best chance at a long life of glowing, good health?
Research shows that small changes in nutrition can make a big difference in your kitty's longevity and quality of life.