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    Functional Ingredients as a Natural Support for Weight Management in Pets

  • For many years, being overweight or obese was a human concern. These days however, more and more companion animals are struggling with this condition. Here Dr Maygane Ronsmans, Product Manager Animal Nutrition at BENEO, explores how functional ingredients can help as a natural support for weight management in pets and why the choice of carbohydrate and fiber matters when it comes to long-term health.

    Pets are increasingly overweight or obese

    Numbers of overweight and obese companion animals have steadily increased over the last few decades and now exceed 50% in Western countries.(i) Recent statistics from the US have even classified 6 in 10 dogs and cats as overweight or obese. (ii) As with humans, there are many serious health consequences for overweight or obese pets. These include cardiovascular and metabolic diseases (e.g., glucose intolerance, diabetes), or skeletal associated disorders, leading to a negative impact on the pet’s – and owner’s – quality of life.

    Pet owners are well aware of the dangers surrounding having overweight or obese companion animals, and many like to opt for a preventive approach when it comes to managing their pet’s weight. A recent global survey conducted by FMCG Gurus on behalf of BENEO showed that 3 in 4 pet owners worldwide were concerned with their pet’s weight(iii) and around 4 in 5 agreed that an on-pack claim about helping to control their pet’s weight naturally affects their purchase intention of a pet food product to some extent.(iv) There is therefore a market opportunity for functional ingredients that can help with weight and blood glucose management.

    Functional ingredients as part of the solution

    Like in humans, prevention of obesity is always better than cure, and a balanced diet should remain the ‘gold standard’. Nevertheless, when weight loss is required, a multi-pronged approach that combines exercise along with energy- restricted diets is often key. In the context of obesity, the choice of nutrients in pet food can also make a difference, and including functional ingredients in a pet’s diet – such as slow-release carbohydrate isomaltulose and prebiotic chicory root fibers – can help with weight and blood glucose management.

    Carbohydrate choice matters

    Carbohydrates are an inherent part of our pets’diet nowadays.Though, carbohydrates have not been created equal and they differ in composition, digestive properties and therefore glycaemic effects. A case in point is that high glycaemic carbohydrates, such as sucrose or cooked starches, are rapidly digested and absorbed in the first part of the small intestine, resulting in a fast and high blood glucose response. Low glycaemic carbohydrates on the other hand, are digested more slowly and lead to a lower blood glucose response. Having a slower blood glucose supply results in more balanced glycaemia, lower insulin peaks and overall better metabolic health. A 2012 study with dogs has further shown that low glycaemic diets can support weight loss.(v)

    For pet food producers looking for low glycaemic carbohydrates, isomaltulose can become a key part of their ingredient toolbox. Isomaltulose is a disaccharide of glucose and fructose derived from sugar beet that is characterised by a stronger glycosidic bond than that of standard sugar. Due to this specific linkage, it is more resistant to enzymatic hydrolysation in the intestine, therefore inducing lower glycaemic and insulin responses than regular sucrose as demonstrated in many species (e.g., humans, rodents and pigs).

    A scientific publication from 2023 about three studies from Corbee et al(vi), has confirmed that isomaltulose is a suitable low glycaemic ingredient for use in dog food, triggering a lower blood glucose rise after consumption. The trials evaluated the digestion of isomaltulose as well as its glycaemic and insulinaemic effects in dogs, compared to other relevant carbohydrate sources. An in-vitro study of small intestinal tissue samples from three dogs showed that isomaltulose can be digested by canine intestinal enzymes, with a lower enzyme activity compared to high glycaemic carbohydrates, indicating a slower rate of hydrolysis.

    In addition, two in-vivo studies compared the effects of isomaltulose, sucrose and maltodextrin in dogs. The results showed that isomaltulose significantly lowered blood glucose and insulin responses, compared to maltodextrin or sucrose – even after continuous feeding. All in all, this property makes isomaltulose a particularly interesting solution with the potential to support metabolic health and weight management in dogs.

    The power of chicory root fibers

    Other functional ingredients that enable blood sugar management in dogs (vii, viii, ix, x) as well as weight management in pets (xi, xii, xiii) are BENEO’s natural chicory root fibers Orafti® Inulin and Oligofructose. These inulin-type fructans belong to the very few scientifically proven prebiotics , that support a pet’s intestinal health and are linked with nutritional benefits that go beyond the gut. For example, studies show that including Orafti® Inulin and Oligofructose in a pet’s diet can curb their appetite, improve satiety and hence decrease voluntary food intake. (xv, xvi, xvii) In doing so, chicory root fibers can help to maintain the healthy condition of a pet’s body.

    Additionally, since inulin-type fructans are non-digestible carbohydrates and dietary fibers, they do not trigger a rise in postprandial blood glucose or insulin concentrations. As a result, they support blood sugar management in dogs. What’s more, studies in dogs have shown that feeding them with chicory prebiotics can allow for a lower blood sugar response after a meal , and this benefit can extend to a subsequent meal taken hours later, even if that meal doesn’t include chicory root fibers; (xx, xxi) which is called the second meal effect.

    Quality production

    BENEO produces its functional carbohydrates, including isomaltulose, and chicory root fibers in state-of-the-art and food-certified processing plants, which enables the highest product quality to be continuously guaranteed. Also, the non- GMO sugar beets and chicory roots are sourced from farmers in close proximity to the production sites. Isomaltulose as well as Orafti® Inulin and Oligofructose are natural ingredients which are acknowledged as feed materials in the EU (xxii). They are suitable for use in both dry and wet pet foods, or in snacks.

    With more and more companion animals struggling with being overweight or obese, it is no wonder that pet food producers are turning to functional ingredients, such as BENEO’s, to help owners resolve these issues. By choosing the right ones, it is now possible to support weight and blood sugar management in pets more naturally, whilst supporting their long-term health.

    BENEO source references for this article are available on request.

    For more information: www.beneo.com


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