Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

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Diet and Exercise

What your pets really like to eat

Although dogs and cats are both carnivores, they have surprisingly different appetites for food. In a study published last month, researchers at Oregon State University examined what our beloved pets really like to eat. Their results, published last month in the Journal of Experimental Biology, were rather surprising: dogs showed preference towards foods high in fats (41% fat, 36% carbohydrates) whereas cats preferred foods high in carbohydrates (43% carbohydrates, 30% proteins). […]

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Extreme fasting

  Northern Elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) are pretty extreme animals, at least when it comes to fasting. Pups nurse for about 1 month, during which time they greatly increase their body fat. After nursing, they typically fast for up to 3 months. A new study was designed to explore how their adipose (fat) tissue changes after this prolonged fast. Researchers at the University of California at Merced were able to […]

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Chocolate: Bad for Fido, good for us?

Many animals, especially dogs and cats, cannot tolerate theobromine which is an alkaloid from the cacao plant. Studies of humans, however, have found many beneficial health effects of theobromine, caffeine as well as flavonoids found in cocoa (Martinez-Pinilla et al., 2015). A new study published in Journal of Applied Physiology examined whether cocoa extract can improve heart health in individuals exercising in hypoxic conditions. Hypoxia (i.e. low atmospheric oxygen) reduces the […]

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Special diet improves feline chronic kidney disease

Some good news for cats (and their owners)! Like people, cats can develop chronic kidney disease. In fact, about 10% of felines over the age of 9 years develop it. Common symptoms in cats include weight loss, reduced muscle mass, and often excessive urination and thirst. Other symptoms include metabolic acidosis and more advanced stages may include protein loss in the urine In a new study published in Physiological Reports, researchers […]

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Leptin influences mammalian bone development

Leptin is a hormone that was discovered in 1994 and was once heavily studied by researchers who had hoped it might be useful in promoting weight loss.  It is produced by fat cells and signals to the brain whether those fat cells have sufficient energy, at which time it suppresses hunger and thereby promotes weight loss (WebMD; Klok et al., 2007). One of the reasons it failed as a weight […]

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Caffeine redemption

Sometimes caffeine gets bad rap. But, not all caffeine drinks are created equal and certainly there are health issues related to over-consumption. But, as an avid coffee drinker, I’d like to think there are some benefits to my favorite morning treat. A recent article published in American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism highlighted some of the health benefits of caffeine. Thank you AJP! Obesity is a complicated condition that can […]

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Pediatric obesity in marmoset monkeys begins in the womb

A new review article published in the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology explored an interesting question: how do prenatal experiences along with the intrauterine environment impact the future development of pediatric and adult obesity in animals? Common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus) are New World monkeys that can spontaneously develop obesity early in life when living in captivity with high food availability and relatively low physical activity. Similar to […]

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Environmental impact on physiology

Several of the comparative physiology posters and talks presented at the Experimental Biology conference today focused on the impact of environmental changes on the physiology of animals. Here are some highlights: Rachel Heuer, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Miami working with Dr. Martin Grosell, examined the effects of crude oil on heart function in mahi-mahi. As the Deepwater Horizon spill occurred when these fish were spawning, it is […]

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Caffeine and memory…wait what was I saying?

Personally, I would have a hard time functioning in the morning without coffee. I think many people might agree as caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive stimulant worldwide.  The stimulant effects of caffeine are attributed to its ability to bind to and inhibit adenosine receptors in the body, resulting in increased excitation of neurons: Long term potentiation (LTP) refers to an increase in the strength of connections formed between […]

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