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Food as Medicine for Canines – Part 1: Slowing Down the Slowing Down

April 1st, 2024 by Ima Admin

What would we give for extra time with our beloved companion animals before they cross the Rainbow Bridge? What if there was a way from maturity onward to expand not only their lifespan, but their “healthspan” too? The concept of aging well, and longer, is a hot topic that’s enjoying a burst of research activity in the human realm. Much of that research applies to animals too. In fact, many of the early findings in longevity are coming from canine research through the Dog Aging Project.

Current longevity research is focused on slowing down what’s known as the mTor signaling pathway, the system that regulates metabolism and promotes growth when we’re young, but then ages us once we’re mature.

“Interventions that have been shown to truly prolong the lifespan of vertebrates include severely cutting the number of calories consumed, restricting the amount of methionine (a type of amino acid found in meat and other proteins) in the diet and using mTor inhibitors such as rapamycin and metformin,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice.
“However, a growing body of research shows that a robust list of whole grains and plants can supply similar inhibition and promote longevity.”

Consider the case of Rapamycin, an FDA-approved pharmaceutical that is currently used in human cancer chemotherapy and to prevent rejection in organ transplants. Low-dose rapamycin therapy was found to reduce the incidence of cancer and improve cognitive and muscle function in mice, extending their lifespan by 25%.

Rapamycin has been found to improve cardiac function in dogs, and is now being investigated for ways it might increase the lifespan and improve various measures of health in aging dogs. Knowns as TRIAD (Test of Rapamycin in Aging Dogs), the study is one of many being conducted by Dog Aging Project scientists, and is a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial expected to span 5 years. Early results are still a few years out.

In the meantime, parallel research is underway to explore whole foods and nutraceuticals such as yams, types of mushrooms and green tea that mimic the effects of rapamycin and metformin in more holistic ways. The hope is to one day provide double-blind clinical proof of effectiveness for companion animals.

An even more fascinating avenue of food as medicine can be found in foods high in spermidine, a type of organic compound called a polyamine. We’ll explore the action of spermidine and the list of foods rich in it in our next installment of Pet Tips, so stay tuned for part 2!