Though it’s been known for over 80 years now that profound calorie restriction extends the healthy lifespan of nearly all species studied – from fruit flies through dogs and now primates, * many people will not practice the regimen because of the obvious hardship it can entail. But from a realistic viewpoint, even a small reduction in overall quantity can go a long way toward good health. Well, what about Fido? You have complete control over his diet, why not put this regimen to work for him?
Meet Riley, my 85 lb. Rottweiler/coon hound mix pictured above. He is now 12 years old and going strong. This despite the vet saying last spring that he would have serious age-related problems by the end of that year. Riley does have a bunch of “fatty bumps” all over his body but vet has repeatedly examined them over the years and said they were no concern. I also keep hearing people saying the guy looks a bit over weight :) , but he’s actually a model of good health for a dog his age.
Riley greets us every morning bursting with energy, he still chases sticks (breaks off his own from the surrounding trees), wrestles at every opportunity, and acts about the same as he did 5 years ago. The only concession to age is that he sleeps a bit more during the day. Whats his secret? He certainly gets regular exercise and plenty of rest, but he also has been fed a reduced calorie diet since he was a puppy. Here is a pic of his typical morning meal:
That dish contains @1/4 of a can of high quality dog food along with about a handful of crunchies. What do the dry food bags usually recommend for a dog his size? About 8 cups per day! Yet Riley gets this dish in the morning and evening with a few tiny bits of chicken and small dog treats per day and that’s it. Basically about half of what other dogs typically get and yet he’s doing great!
There’s no question that we Westerners eat vastly more than we need to for optimal health. Besides sheer bulk we also eat very high fat and sugar meals; I have written many posts suggesting ways to mitigate this. Some here. One idea: Eat only as much as needed to become @ 80% full rather than as bloated as a whale at each meal. If you eat slower and savor each bite, you will probably enjoy the meal more and also find yourself perfectly satisfied when the meal is done. This is one of the best dietary habits you can develop.
Of course trying to teach my dog Riley to slow down in his attack on his dish is a lost cause. It doesn’t matter what we tell him, he’ll beg everytime there is something organic in the area regardless of how much we give him!
* read between the lines on these studies, and note that the calorie restricted diet groups in both studies were in fact healthier, and also note that the Univ of Wisconsin control group monkeys were allowed to eat whatever they wanted – a realistic control factor – and likewise both groups in the other study by the NIA were given an unrealistic healthy diet. The results are tantalizing and actually point more to the benefit of calorie restriction, but further study is clearly needed.
For more on cal restriction and its benefits: here