Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Brain Food for Pets? Yes!

Sage a sweet senior Poodle
Photo by Susan Makin

Dogs and cats, like people, develop problems of aging, not just arthritis, loss or lessening of sight and hearing. They also develop cognitive dysfunction – a cat or dog version of Alzheimer’s or dementia. There is medication available but what if there were another way helping our pets without medication? 

This is the challenge that Nestlé Purina’s veterinary nutritionists have taken on. I had the opportunity to interview two of their researchers to find out exactly what was being done. Drs. Janet Jackson and Gary Pan were generous with their time, information and expertise. 

I'm intrigued by Nestlé Purina's newest product that can make such a difference for our companions. Basically, brain food for our pets.

Glucose is the main energy source for the brain, but the brain’s ability to utilize glucose declines in middle aged and old people and pets,” says Jackson. In women, for example, estrogen is lost after menopause and glucose usage declines in the brain," according to Pan.

“MCTs, Medium Chain Triglycerides, provide an additional source of energy to brain cells,” Jackson says. 

Purina has created an additive for its Pro Plan Dog Food to reduce damage to the brain from stress, as well as other losses from aging, such as estrogen in females.

      MCTs are medium chain triglycerides, and are found in botanical oils such as coconut oil.      MCTs will be included in the new Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind formulas, which will be available at retail starting in January;


Dr. Janet Jackson
“MCTs add energy for the brain. Older pets sleep more, they don’t want to play as much. There’s a decrease in activity and mobility.” Cognitive health is impaired and even some veterinarians don’t recognize the signs, according to Dr. Jackson. I would venture to guess that most owners and many veterinarians would assume this is tied in with arthritis, which, of course, needs attention.

The dogs fed this new food in trials have shown improvement within 30 days. “They (owners) will see a difference,” says Jackson. “There is a visible difference in the dogs’ lives.”

Dr. Pan, who has had articles on Cognitive Dysfunction published in the British Journal of Nutrition, points out that as in humans, it is associated with the “gradual and irreversible loss of brain cells and synapses,” which we know can lead to dementia in people, a heartbreaking condition for the entire family. 
Dr. Gary Pan

Purina also has created a unique nutrient blend, called the Brain Protection Blend™ that can help reduce damage to the brain from stress, as well as other losses from aging, and help maintain energy metabolism, blood supply, and the structural integrity and functions of the brain.    

The MCT technology targeting the brain energy supply will be available for dogs starting in January 2015 in the new Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind formulas. It is taking longer to develop an MCT formula for cats, but they hope it will be in the food sometime in the near future. The Brain Protected Blend™ food is targeting risk factors of brain aging and is planned to be available for both dogs and cats in next 18 to 24 months.

Cats tend to vocalize more and show similar signs as dogs and people. Perhaps cats and dogs wouldn’t sleep so much if they were more interested in play and hadn’t forgotten about that and so much more. Is it worth a try? When you love your four-legged companion and do not want to see this sort of decline, my personal opinion is yes.

 I’ve been to Purina several times in the past. I was one of the first 6 dog writers invited when they opened to the press. (There were no “official” cat writers at that time.)  I’ve met with their Research and Development people over the years and attended their Nutrition Forums before Nestlé bought Purina. Much of their staff remains in place except for those who retired. They are dedicated to promoting lifelong health in pets with foods developed for weight, development, and dental health.  They want to keep their customers happy and healthy. I can state that not from reading something written by an amateur, or listening to gossip.  I can state it because I’ve toured their research and development facilities, I’ve talked with their researchers who leave no stone unturned in looking for more ways to help our companions.
The Fabulous Aimee

For a little more information on Drs. Jackson and Pan: Dr. Janet Jackson is the Vice President & Director of Nestlé Purina PetCare Nutrition Research. She has been collaborating with NRC scientists in Lausanne, Switzerland to work together and share knowledge to help improve products for pets and people. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois.  Yuanlong (Gary) Pan is a senior research scientist in the Nestlé Purina PetCare Nutrition Group. His interests are nutrition, weight management and healthy aging. Raised in China where he always had a cat while growing up. His research into the healthy aging of dog and cat brains via nutrition, have proved that a special botanic oil can be used as an alternative energy source for the brains of middle-aged and senior dogs, as well as nutritional advances in weight loss in dogs. His work with cats includes developing a special blend of nutrients that can improve memory and learning functions in middle-aged and senior cats. Dr. Pan graduated from the College of Veterinary Medicine, Gansu University of Agriculture, P.R. China where he also earned a Master’s degree in comparative anatomy. He earned his Ph.D. in Animal Nutrition from Virginia Tech where he was a Pratt Fellow. He then earned a Ph.D. in human nutrition from UNC-Greensboro. He worked as a research associate, then instructor, at Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

Here are two interesting infographics from Nestlé Purina.  


Gordon Brice said...

Great blog as always, with excellent and detailed information, conderning Purina's approach to helping our furry friends cope with the aging process. It was also useful to learn more about the 2 doctors heading up the research. As has been said before, treatment for humans is, in many ways appropriate for animals too.....and vice versa.

Gordon Brice said...

Apologies for the typo. I did of course mean "concerning".

Layla Morgan Wilde ( Cat Wisdom 101) said...

There is no question Purina has the means for deep research but what about supplementation not found in pet food? When I interviewed Janet Jackson she evaded my question about how to add supplements to pet foods. I give my cats a variety from EFAs, probiotics to Novafit which worked cognitive wonders on my 20-year-old cat.

Darlene said...

Thank you so much, Gordon! I appreciate it.

Darlene said...

Layla, I don't expect them to give away trade secrets. How they get it in there is their business; if they can make a difference for our beloved companions, I feel, is mine. :-) I can understand why you asked the question but having been there and having seen what I've seen, I know they can do it but I don't know exactly how. The problem with a lot of supplementation is that owners have to know which ones can be dangerous in too large an amount when it's already in the food. We have to do that for ourselves as well! :-) The point of this is that they are adding supplements not currently found in pet food. Most owners don't know what to use for their pets or in what amount(s).