GUEPLH, ONTARIO — Researchers at the University of Guelph recently found that choline can play an important role in reducing obesity in spayed and neutered cats. According to a recent study, kittens that consumed high levels of choline voluntarily ate less and, therefore, gained less weight.

The study, published in PLOS ONE, was led by Adronie Verbrugghe, Ph.D., DVM, professor at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College and veterinary diets endowed chair in canine and feline clinical nutrition for Royal Canin; Alexandra Rankovic, Ph.D., and Caitlin E. Grant. Other contributors of the study include: Hannah Godfrey, a Ph.D. student in biomedical sciences; Anna Kate Shoveller, Ph.D., professor of animal biosciences; Marica Bakovic, Ph.D., professor of human health and nutritional sciences; and Sarah K. Abood, Ph.D., DVM, all of the University of Guelph.

“The goal of this research is really to do a call on the pet food industry to change the diets that are currently available and include higher levels of choline — not just the minimum needed to prevent deficiencies, but an additional volume that would support optimal growth and benefit fat metabolism,” Verbrugghe said.

According to the University of Guelph, about 79% of cats are spayed or neutered, and while the operation can be beneficial to a cat’s health and also curb the population, it is one of the highest factors of obesity in cats. The absence of sex hormones in a neutered or spayed cat makes them less active, impacts their appetite and alters their metabolisms. Cat parents can help prevent obesity in their pets by feeding them less, but cat owners are likely unaware how spaying/neutering impacts their pets, therefore, failing to adjust their cat’s diet.

“Every spay and neuter procedure should go together with a recommendation on how to adjust the cat’s diet and I think nowadays that is not happening enough,” Verbrugghe said.

The study was completed on a small sample of male domestic kittens, neutered at six months old. The kittens were then divided into two groups, one received a choline supplement, provided by Balchem Corporation, in addition to their food and the other group did not. Researchers found that the group of kittens that consumed additional choline voluntarily ate less, compared to the kittens who consumed industry standard amounts of choline, which gained more weight and body fat.

“The additional choline did not impact lean muscle mass growth or impact growth itself, but reduced excess body mass,” Godfrey said.

While choline is already found in cat food, the ingredient is still a field of ongoing research in feline fat metabolism and liver health, Verburgghe explained. There is also lack of study on how choline may act in supplemental form.

Currently, there are many cat diets on the market that manage weight and even promote weight loss, but choline in a supplemental form may prove as untapped potential for pet food brands, as further research into the ingredient progresses.

More on the study on choline.

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