Obesity and overweight have become a global problem nowadays.1 They were previously considered prevalent only in the high-income countries; however, have now become common in the low- and middle-income countries as well, especially in urban areas.2 Childhood obesity has also been on the rise, with a large number of children under five who are obese or overweight.3
Various diet pills and bariatric surgery have been used as the treatment for obesity, but most either have serious side effects or limited long-term effectiveness.1
What is obesity?
According to the World Health Organization, obesity and overweight are defined as abnormal and excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health. Obesity is linked to body mass index (BMI), which is calculated by dividing a person’s weight (in kilogram) by the square of their height (in metres). While the BMI values vary according to ethnicity, according to global guidelines, a person is considered overweight if they have a BMI of 25 or more and obese if they have a BMI of 30 or more. Overweight and obesity are major risk factors for several conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer.1 Several factors are responsible for obesity and weight gain such as genetic influence, gut bacteria, sedentary lifestyle and socioeconomic status.4 The conventional treatment options for obesity include eating healthy food that does not add to the calories and physical activities such as jogging, swimming, brisk walking or playing a sport.5
How can your pet be a solution to your obesity problem?
Studies indicate that the same factors that are responsible for obesity in humans also contribute to animal obesity. In today’s sociocultural setting, there is an increased prevalence of obesity in pet animals as well. New and creative ideas are therefore required to treat this dual obesity.6 Engaging pet animals in weight loss programmes is a novel approach to treating obesity in both people and pets. Pet animals can help obese owners to lose weight in the following ways:6-8
- Physical activity: Spending time in pet-friendly parks and activities with the pets such as using pet toys for playing and walking the pet can prove beneficial as a physical activity for both.6 Studies have shown that owning a dog is linked with a less likelihood of obesity and overweight and also reduced anxiety in children aged five to 12 years.7
- Eating habits: Research shows that overweight pets usually have overweight owners. Changing the food habits in both pets and their owners can help them live a long and healthy life together.8
- Social interaction: As per a study, individuals who received more social support were seen to be more physically active than individuals who received less social support.6 Studies suggest companion animals can be excellent social partners. People who walked with their dogs experienced more conversations and social contact as compared to those who walked alone, thus providing more long-term benefits.6
Can pets prevent obesity in children?
Research shows that exposure to pets in the house can prevent both obesity and allergies in children. Babies in families with pets are more likely to have high levels of gut microbes that are associated with reduced risk of allergies as well as obesity. The advantage can even be passed on to a child in the mother’s womb.9
Having pets as your companions in your family can help you fight obesity. Several studies show that the innovative approach of including overweight pets and their owners in one health programme is beneficial in losing weight for both, the owners and their pets.1
Your pets can be the key to fixing your obesity. What a treat it is to have a pet, unconditional love and good health, all in one sweet package!
- Bartges J, Kushner RF, Michel KE, Sallis R, Day MJ. One Health solutions to obesity in people and their pets. J Comp Pathol. 2017 May;156(4):326-333. doi: 10.1016/j.jcpa.2017.03.008.
- World Health Organization. Obesity [Internet]. [cited 2019 Dec 30]. Available from: https://www.who.int/topics/obesity/en/.
- Harvard T.H. Chan. Child Obesity [Internet]. [cited 2019 Dec 30]. Available from: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/obesity-trends/global-obesity-trends-in-children/.
- Children with pets have less stress [Internet]. [cited 2019 Dec 30]. Available from: https://kcms-prod-mcorg.mayo.edu/diseases-conditions/obesity/symptoms-causes/syc-20375742
- NHS. Obesity [Internet]. [updated 2019 May 16; cited 2019 Dec 30]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/obesity/
- Kushner RF, Blatner DJ, Jewell DE, Rudloff K. The PPET Study: people and pets exercising together. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2006 Oct;14(10):1762-70.
- TuftsNow. Can dogs help kids lose weight? [Internet]. [updated 2014 May 20; cited 2019 Dec 30]. Available from: https://now.tufts.edu/news-releases/can-dogs-help-kids-lose-weight.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Managing obesity, one paw at a time [Internet]. [updated 2016 Nov 7; cited 2019 Dec 30]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/features/managing-pet-obesity/index.html.
- Nutrition Review. Pet exposure linked to lower risk for allergies and obesity [Internet]. [updated 2017 Apr 18; cited 2019 Dec 30]. Available from: https://nutritionreview.org/2017/04/pet-exposure-linked-to-lower-risk-for-allergies-and-obesity/.