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Pet research dividends doubled for understanding human diabetes, obesity

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[JAN. 31, 2004]  URBANA -- A family of research projects in the University of Illinois Department of Animal Sciences is producing information useful in combating diabetes and obesity in dogs and humans, according to the project's leader, George Fahey, professor of animal sciences.

"We get a double impact from this research -- what works in a dog tends to work in a human," he explained.

The projects focus on a number of areas related to diabetes, gastrointestinal health and obesity and have identified novel carbohydrates that, when ingested by both dogs and humans, improve tolerance for carbohydrates while increasing dietary fiber content.

"There are a number of these 'novel' carbohydrates that most people know nothing about," said Fahey. "One in particular -- pullulan cyclodextrin -- can modify the glycemic index, an indicator of tolerance for carbohydrates.

"When both humans and dogs eat too many carbohydrates, obesity may result, and this can often be a precursor for diabetes."

However, tests indicate that pullulan cyclodextrin actually blunts the body's glycemic response, decreasing the spikes in blood sugar levels that can be an extenuating circumstance in diabetes.

"When this carbohydrate is included in the diet in any form, the result is better control of the glycemic response," said Fahey. "And you don't have to eat a lot of it to get the job done. Additionally, this novel carbohydrate has a fiber-like quality that allows its substitution for traditional dietary fiber sources.

 

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"Less of these novel carbohydrates is needed, thus lowering the amounts of traditional dietary fibers that must be ingested for optimal health."

The research has important implications for both dogs and humans afflicted with diabetes or at risk for the disease.

"The American population is overweight, and type 2 diabetes is occurring at almost epidemic levels," Fahey said. "The same thing is occurring in the pet population. Thirty percent of dogs in the United States are overweight and, like humans, have diabetes and large-bowel problems as a result. One way to combat this is to modify the diet."

Fahey said clinical trials are continuing, but the early indications are positive.

"These are pure carbohydrates and very palatable," he said. "And it also appears they have the added benefit of doing the same thing as a large amount of fiber content in the diet without negative side effects."

[University of Illinois release]

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