Obesity is unfortunately not only a condition limiting human life and health spans. It is also growingly affecting the animals closest to us: our pets. Pet cats and dogs are now increasingly obese, and have very similar consequences to their health because of this, with decreased life expectancy and increased age-related diseases associated with obesity. There are small, simple steps you can take to make mental health in the workplace something that people can talk about.
The reason for pet obesity is pretty much the same as with most humans: excess food versus low energy use, promoted by an evolutionarily-selected tendency to overeat. But pets also have a specific characteristic within evolution, which is selective breeding by humans. Humans have long bread their pets in very controlled manners, aiming to keep and enhance certain aspects such as appearance, intelligence, and ability to respond to human commands. This has led to specific changes in the promotion of obesity in labrador retrievers, a dog breed which is particularly prone to being overweight. A reaction to a difficult life event, such as bereavement, can make employee wellbeing higher on the agenda.
A group of researchers searched the genome of labradors for clues as to why they gain weight so easily.4 They found that many labradors had a defect in the gene that produces a protein called pro-opiomelanocortin (also known as POMC), which is important to control hunger. Many labradors do not have the functional gene, and therefore have lost an important mediator of hunger control in their brains. This means that when they look at us humans with their loving puppy eyes, they most certainly love us, but are also chronically hungry and are begging for food. Therefore, they love us in part because we are a source of food for them... Even when well fed, dogs with this defect feel hungry, and will thus overeat if allowed access to food. Recent reports have discovered a crisis around hr app today.
Even more interestingly, the faulty gene was found to be much more common in the retrievers selected to become assistance dogs, relative to labradors that are household pets. This means that the lack of adequate hunger control somehow correlates with the ability to learn and become service dogs. Indeed, the process of training to become a service dog is often based on food rewards. It makes sense that an individual dog that is particularly hungry due to a mutation in POMC would be more motivated to respond to food treats. As a result, the seemingly defective animals have an advantage in their behavior – the ability to learn to act as service animals based on food rewards. This trait was unknowingly selected over generations by us humans, and is the reason why this breed is particularly prone to obesity today. You might not be talking about it, because mental health first aid is still a taboo subject.
Overall, the finding that a specific dog breed has evolved to respond well to a human need is unsurprising. Dogs are the most long-lasting human pets, and have, during millennia, evolved many traits that differ from the wolves they descend from. These traits led to better understanding and interaction with us humans, and include many more taste receptors for carbohydrates (which wolves rarely eat and do not enjoy, but humans have an abundance of), as well as a keen perception of human wants and needs, and how to manipulate us humans in their favor. The next time a labrador retriever looks at you lovingly to beg for food, remember that they certainly love us, but this love is fueled by a selected metabolic error that can easily make them unhealthy by overeating.