Friday, February 22, 2013

Crazy Cat Lady, RD

This morning I was both fascinated and amused to see this story pop up in my news feed: Supplementation Necessary With Raw Meat Diet For Cats (or Tigers).  I was interested because a) I care about the health of my two orange tabbies so I want to feed them right, b) I have long entertained fantasies about running a weight loss clinic for overindulged pets, c) I have long been fascinated by the lengths that people will go to to take care of their pets, and d) I thought it might have some applications to humans.

So, yes, I do find it fascinating that people buy frozen rabbit carcases and grind them up in the kitchen and then freeze them in portions for later, as detailed on this website managed by a veterinarian.  It's not something I choose to do, but I have learned a lot about what kind of higher-quality food to look for (and seen more pictures of cat poop than I care too).   I also find it fascinating that even though she recommends feeding a cat as close to "nature" as possible, she recognizes that cats can benefit from more than just having a couple chicken thighs thrown at them (as apparently confirmed by the study).  In other words, even though the cats would survive on those chicken thighs, they likely wouldn't thrive.  And even though my cats often look longingly out the window, wishing they could catch the geckos and squirrels that torment them from the porch, I think they prefer their temperature controlled environment with a constant source of food.  (Yes, even skeptics like to anthropomorphize their animals.  I think you only need to worry about me when I start trying to ulilize the "pet psychic" that often appears at the fund raisers for the local animal shelters).

Now, how does this apply to people?  Think about certain people you know who also want to keep their diets as close to "nature" as possible, which for some people means staying with mostly meats (with fat, hopefully) and whatever vegetables they can scrounge up.  They have definite advantages in keeping excess calories away, and if they are pre-diabetic or have type 2 diabetes it will definitely keep their insulin levels from being elevated and blood glucose levels from going out of control.  Some people become so worried, however, about keeping their insulin levels down that they resort to an ultra-primitive plan (think sitting in a cave munching on jerky and maybe a little dried fruit in the middle of winter--also called a zero carb diet). Could this ultra-primitive diet cause some ultra-primitive problems?  The answer is yes, and one of those problems that is resurfacing is a disease that many people thought went away with the dissolution of maritime commerce--scurvy.

Just like cats can't synthesize taurine in their bodies and must get it from food, humans can't synthesize vitamin C and must get it from food sources.  Additionally, we do actually need to produce a certain amount of insulin to absorb vitamin C for our bodies to recycle it.  So if someone did try to do a zero carb diet for a significant length of time, even if they were eating some red peppers or other vegetables high in vitamin C, they won't be able to use it.  So, you will want to make sure that you eat enough carbohydrate to produce the right amount of insulin.  I know for me that won't be a problem!  Does that mean that you start eating platefuls of pasta, and cartloads of candy, and oodles of orange juice?   Sorry, but no.  You can, however, add back small portions of fruit (like a cup of berries, not the whole flat!) a couple times per day, add a little sweet potato here and there, or a little bit of unprocessed rice and/or quinoa; in other words, add back high nutrition carbohydrates in small portions and stay away from the processed stuff.  (And if you have diabetes, you might need to test more often to make sure your portions aren't too big!)

Take home message--going to extremes with any plan will probably hurt you in some way.  You might need to keep your carbohydrates low, but make sure you eat enough of the nutritious kind. 
Oh, and make sure your cats have a balanced diet too.

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