Our Independent Pet Food Study Results Will Be Available Soon

independent pet food study

Story at-a-glance -

  • Today is day 3 of our Companion Animal Nutrition and Wellness Institute’s (CANWI) Annual Awareness Week
  • Dr. Donna Raditic, co-founder of CANWI, discusses progress on our current study on AGE levels in processed pet food and the potential impact on pet health
  • She also announces the launch of a new cat-focused study, Project Molly

By Dr. Donna Raditic

High heat-treated and processed foods contain what are known as advanced glycation end products, or AGEs. AGEs form as the result of chemical reactions that occur between carbohydrates (sugars) and proteins in food ingredients. Dietary AGEs have been linked to many chronic disease states in humans such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s and even cancer.

To Limit Consumption of AGEs, Humans Should Eat Fresh, Unprocessed Foods

Studies of AGEs have shown that a piece of poached fish has tiny amounts of AGEs, but take that same fillet, bread it and bake it, and now you have more than 100 times the amount of AGEs. An apple or a tomato contains almost no AGEs, while canned meat with sauce and breakfast cereals can contain up to 500 times the amount of AGEs as compared to fresh, unprocessed fruits and vegetables.

It is known that high temperatures and long cooking times, especially of protein and carbohydrate ingredients, can cause increased levels of AGEs in human food products. Based on study results, it’s now recommended that humans consume less processed foods, and use lower heat and moisture when we cook (e.g., poaching versus grilling, baking or frying).

So when we think about recommendations for humans to eat more fresh foods and limit consumption of heat-processed foods, we naturally wonder if this also applies to what we feed our dogs and cats.

Are We Feeding Our Pets High Levels of AGEs in Processed Diets?

Most typical commercial pet food today is processed and heat-treated. We’ve always considered this a positive because cooking and processing kills harmful bacteria, gives pet food a longer shelf life and provides us with convenient dry and canned diets for our pets.

But could there be negatives to processed pet food similar to what has been found with processed human foods? Does the processing used to produce today’s convenient pet foods result in diets containing harmful levels of AGEs? And do these dietary AGEs play a role in some of the chronic diseases we see in our animal companions?

CANWI Research Project Update

Thanks to your generous support, last year CANWI launched a series of ambitious studies to investigate AGEs in pet food. We want to thank all of you who helped make those studies possible, and also provide you with an update.

Here’s What We Know — It is known that processing and especially heat treatment of food ingredients can cause a reaction between the proteins and sugars to form AGEs. Studies have shown that a high intake of dietary AGEs are associated with age-related diseases in humans, rats and dogs, including diabetes, cataracts, osteoarthritis, atherosclerosis, renal disease, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Millions of dogs and cats are fed heat-processed commercial foods throughout their lives, so it is estimated they’re consuming higher levels of AGEs on a body weight basis compared to humans.

Here’s What CANWI Has Done — Our independent study is being led by Dr. Joe Bartges and includes other food scientists, multiple research labs and the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. We have learned we can measure AGEs in pet food ingredients and different types of processed dog foods (dry, canned, raw, etc.).

We know how to measure AGEs and other markers in biological samples from dogs fed food containing different levels of AGEs. We’ve collected a lot of data and are now processing and analyzing our samples.

Here’s What We Hope to Learn From This Study — We want to know the exact amount of AGEs in pet diets and how ingredients and processing impacts those levels. We want to know if there is a measurable impact on the health of dogs consuming various levels of dietary AGEs. We think if pet parents have this information they’ll be able to make better food choices. This information is available for human food products, but not pet foods (until now!).

Here’s What You Should Expect — We will be looking to provide more information, recommendations and publication of CANWI’s research in the spring of 2019.

And Here’s What’s New — Since we began our CANWI study of AGEs in dog food, an increasing number of studies continue to scrutinize the role of AGEs in human diets. As the consumption of processed foods increases in other countries, we’re seeing a corresponding increase in certain disease states, especially diabetes.

Many of the newer human nutrition studies focus on the role of dietary AGEs in diabetes and are showing the benefits of lowering dietary AGEs in diabetic patients. In fact, the human diabetic blood test called A1C is actually a measurement of a blood AGE!

Now, it is known that most diabetic cats and diabetic humans have the Type 2 form of the disease. So a question we have is, could dietary AGEs play a role in diabetic cats similar to the role they play in human Type 2 diabetes? Dr. Becker and I turned to our research team, many of whom are also pet parents, and we agreed there’s a need to expand our studies of dietary AGEs to kitties.

We Need Your Help to Launch ‘Project Molly’

To investigate the link between AGEs in cat food and feline diabetes, CANWI has now officially launched Project Molly, and we’re asking for your support. Molly was a very special kitty who has inspired all of us at the Companion Animal Nutrition and Wellness Institute to dig deeper into the role of heat processing and AGEs in pet foods.

We know many of you also share your life with a very special kitty, and you want to know the best nutrition to put in that food bowl each and every day. We believe that with the results we’re seeing and will soon share from last year’s AGEs study and now Project Molly, we can answer these questions, but we need your support.