The Fat Resistance Diet

Your Dog Could Help You Lose Weight


Study shows people and pets can succeed together in fighting fat.

our Dog Could Help You Lose Weight


Over 60 percent of adult Americans are now overweight or obese, and an estimated 30 million cats and dogs in the U.S. are overweight or obese, that's 25 percent of the pet population.


The People and Pets Exercising Together (P-PET) study by Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Hill's Pet Nutrition, demonstrated people and their pets can be more successful in staying with a weight loss program when they exercise together.


Dr. Robert Kushner, Professor of Medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine explains, "We devised a state-of-the-art weight management program based on previous studies that show that people are more effective at losing weight and maintaining that weight loss when they do it with a friend or companion. The P-PET study proves that a faithful pet provides effective social support for losing weight and maintaining weight for up to one year." (More on Weight Loss: Calcium and Vitamin D for Weight Loss? )


The 12-month P-PET study consisted of three groups of overweight participants: a dog/owner group (36 people and their dogs), a dog-only group (53 dogs), and a people-only group (56 people). The purpose of the study was to compare the efficacy of weight loss programs for dog-only and people-only groups to that of a combined dog/owner weight loss program for both weight loss and weight maintenance.


During the study, dogs were fed a low-fat, nutritionally balanced food, Hill's Prescription Diet® Canine r/d®, which is specially formulated to help dogs lose weight while keeping them feeling satisfied. In addition, pet owners with dogs in the study were provided with a suggested exercise plan (i.e., 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity at least three days per week) and a regular weigh-in schedule. When the ideal body weight was achieved, the dogs were changed to Hill's Prescription Diet® w/d® food until the 12-month study was completed. People were provided with meal plans and pedometers and were instructed on personality lifestyle pattern behavioral strategies to control dietary calories and increase physical activities. (More on Nutrition: Increase Metabolism with the Fat Burning Hormone Leptin)


Dr. Jennifer Jellison, DVM, Practicing Veterinarian Minerva Park Veterinary Clinic, Columbus, Ohio, explains, "People love their pets and don't want to let them down. They also want their pets to live long and healthy lives. Obesity contributes to a shortened life span, heart disease, diabetes, and osteoarthritis in pets, so keeping your pet at a healthy weight is one of the ways that pet owners can strengthen the human-animal bond and help ensure that their beloved pets will be around for years to come."


Over the course of the 12-month study, both people and dogs lost weight and kept it off: people lost an average of 11 pounds (approximately 5 percent of their initial body weight) and dogs lost an average of 12 pounds (approximately 15.6 percent of their initial body weight). The maximum weight loss for dogs was 35 pounds; for people, the maximum loss was 51 pounds. Participants gained the confidence and the motivation to stick to a specific diet and exercise strategies and succeed at weight loss, not just for the moment but also for the long term.


"Obesity among pets is one of the most significant nutritional problems seen by veterinarians," states Dr. Dennis Jewell, a companion animal nutrition expert at Hill's Pet Nutrition. "The P-PET program is effective at maintaining participation among people and their pets. With increased retention, dogs should benefit from increased veterinary supervision and owner involvement in weight loss."


Roseann and her dog, Spats, one of the many people and pet pairs who succeeded at losing weight on the P-PET program, learned first-hand how working together could help them both get fit and drop pounds, while spending quality time together. Roseann lost 30 pounds and Spats lost 13 pounds, that's 15 percent of his initial body weight!


"Caring for and loving my dog is what motivated me to be a part of this program," says Roseann. "It is a real lifestyle change. We worked together, lost weight and kept it off over the course of a year, and now there's no turning back!"


The combined dog/owner weight loss program was found to be more effective at maintaining participation than the program in which dogs dieted separately: 80 percent of the dogs in the combined dog/owner group completed the study, versus 68 percent of the dogs-only group. Two-thirds of the increase in physical activity in the combined dog/owner group was obtained by engaging in dog-related activities.


"People really enjoy spending time with their dogs, and our P-PET study demonstrates that dogs provide the companionship, social support, and motivation to stick with the program until the pounds come off and stay off," says Dr. Kushner. "This just might be the ultimate buddy system for winning the battle of the bulge!"


Results of the first-ever, 12-month combined people and pet weight management study were presented at the North American Association for the Study of Obesity's (NAASO's) Annual Scientific Meeting the largest conference in North America focusing on obesity research and treatment.


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Northwestern Memorial Hospital (NMH) is one of the country's premier academic medical centers and is the primary teaching hospital of Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. NMH is recognized for its outstanding clinical and surgical advancements in such areas as cardiothoracic and vascular care, gastroenterology, neurology and neurosurgery, oncology, organ and bone marrow transplantation, and women's health.


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