Researchers at the University of Illinois looked into the common belief that cats, carnivorous by nature, are healthiest when fed high-protein diets.
A team of researchers examined the effect of dietary protein-to-carbohydrate ratio on the gut microbiomes of growing kittens. “There are a lot of diets now, all natural, that have high protein and fat and not much dietary fiber or carbohydrates,” said animal sciences researcher, Kelly Swanson.
One month before mating, eight domestic shorthair female cats were randomly assigned to one of two dry diets: high-protein, low-carbohydrate (HPLC) or moderate-protein, moderate-carbohydrate (MPMC). When the kittens were born, they were housed with their mothers until they were 8 weeks old, weaned and then fed the same diets as their mothers.
After weaning, the more than 30 kittens were twin- and triple-housed within the dietary-group cages. Twelve of the kittens became part of the study, from which researchers took fecal samples at weaning and four and eight weeks after weaning. They extracted bacterial DNA and used bioinformatics techniques to estimate total bacterial diversity.
The researchers found important differences between the two groups in microbiome composition. As they had expected, levels of proteolytic bacteria that break down protein were higher for kittens on the HPLC diet and levels of saccharolytic bacteria that break down carbohydrates were higher for kittens on the MPMC diet.
In addition, researchers looked at relationships between the diets and physiology. The kittens fed the MPMC diet had high levels of bifidobacteria, which was linked to higher blood ghrelin levels. Ghrelin is a hormone that stimulates appetite and thus, may be linked to weight gain, according to researchers. Meanwhile, the bifidobacteria may promote better gastrointestinal health, as low levels in humans have been linked to inflammatory bowel disease.
Other bacteria found at higher levels in the MPMC kittens, including lactobacilli, are also linked to gut health. The researchers found a positive relationship between lactobacilli, blood cholesterol, and blood leptin levels. Leptin is the signal that tells the body to stop eating. Hence, lactobacilli may be linked to cholesterol metabolism, appetite and body weight regulation.
Although kittens fed the HPLC diet had lower levels of some health-promoting bacteria, including Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus and Megasphaera, all the animals were healthy throughout the study.
“The cat is fairly unique metabolically,” Swanson said. “But when it comes to gut microbes, there are a lot of similarities to other species. If you feed the bacteria in a cat, dog or human colon the same substrate, there are probably going to be similar outcomes.”
The complete research has been published online in British Journal of Nutrition.
The top 10 petfood manufacturers continue to feel the effects of the global economic meltdown
The most recent theory is that feline idiopathic cystitis is caused by stress
The maker of raw and holistic diets seeks to help transform pets through its products, philosophy, education and research
The lowly pea appears to be an effective ingredient for the next generation of dog and cat diets
Tomato pomace has the potential to provide additional nutrition and health benefits
With the availability of quality ingredients declining, perhaps we need to explore this category
What is this quiet, unassuming ingredient, and should it be there?
To be effective, probiotics must be live and viable
It's an "Intel inside" type of molecule -- but also a problem child
--- Thank you for your patience ----
If you have any issues logging in or any other need feel free to contact us.