Bringing Back the G'OAT of Grains
Updated: April 2023 due to new White Paper on the benefits of Beta Glucan fibres which are purposely included in Virchew's LOVE Bowl
I recently took a walk down memory lane, back to the late 80s. I was thinking about oats and this blog, but found myself thinking about my many years of working in the dietary department of the Lutheran Sunset Home in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. This particular memory was soon after I had moved departments and was heading the front office.
A Shift in Dietary Understanding
These were also my formative years as a bonafide natural foodie, and I was always very eager to read all of the nutritional research (albeit limited) at the time. So, when discussions around the office staffroom lunch table began to include oat bran as a cholesterol-lowering food, I recall smiling and thinking, "Finally, we're talking about foods as medicine rather than drugs." Cardiovascular disease and stroke had become the top killers of the day, and when studies started to reveal the power of oats, we knew it had to do with fibre, but the details and process were limited in research.
When What is Old Is New Again!
Fast forward to today, as we scroll through the plethora of Instagram 'superfood' recipes - we tend to forget that the humble oats, the edible seeds from the oat grass plant, are still one of the most prized for their nutritional value and health benefits.
As humans, we tend to want new and exciting superfood discoveries - so we're making the old NEW again and bringing back one of the G'OAT grains! Here are a few fantastic facts these little powerhouses of nutrition dish up for not only our health but our dog's health, too.
We chose oats as a necessary ingredient in Virchew's LOVE Bowl and here’s why: Beta-glucan (β-glucan)
Six Key Benefits of Beta-Glucan Soluble Oat Fibre
1. Your dog's happy-immune system
The immune-boosting benefits of Beta-glucan have been studied at length (albeit mostly in human beings, but the evidence for dogs is now available, too). For one thing, this soluble fibre plays a prominent role in stimulating lymphocytes (a.k.a. white blood cells), so the body can fight off intracellular parasites and extracellular pathogens.
In simpler terms: beta-glucan promotes white blood cell activity, which helps fight off harmful intruders. Bow, wow.
2. Your dog's healthy tummy
When ingested, beta-glucan promotes the growth of good bacteria in your dog’s intestines. At the same time, beta-glucan works to keep harmful bacteria in the gut at bay. The healthy bacteria that live naturally in the body are known as probiotics, and since beta-glucan is a prebiotic fibre, probiotics rely on them to thrive. The stomach needs probiotics to maintain a healthy microbial balance. That job ultimately pertains to the body’s overall health too.
The biggest benefit here: Perfect POOPS!
3. Your dog's insulin and blood sugar
Beta-glucan also slows the absorption of sugar into your dog’s bloodstream. This action helps to keep their blood sugar levels stable. Because of that regulation, frequent ingestion of beta-glucan can prevent a dog from developing diabetes later in life.
4. Could prevent cancer in your dog (or combat its nasty side effects)
Studies show promise in the use of beta-glucan supplements to slow tumour growth in dogs. That’s because beta-glucan contains D-fraction, a substance that stimulates cancer-killing T-cells.
Not to mention, beta-glucans stimulation of white blood cell activity can really help strengthen the immune system while a dog is undergoing chemotherapy (which can make their immune system weaker). Dogs undergoing cancer treatments can take beta-glucan supplements to help them with their fight.
5. Your dog’s kidneys
Exciting new research is also showing the benefit of beta-glucan in oats for dogs with chronic kidney disease (CKD). A recent study examined the effects of foods with added betaine and oat fibre on the plasma and fecal metabolome and fecal microbiome in dogs with early-stage CKD. In summary, the study showed an overall positive effect of the test foods composed of betaine and fibre from scFOS and beta-glucan on plasma and fecal metabolites in dogs with stage 1 CKD!
Historically, protein-restriction is the dietary recommendation for dogs facing renal disease. This is because kidneys are the organ responsible for processing nitrogen, and nitrogen is found in a high amount in protein-rich diets. But many clinicians, concerned with the burden on the kidneys, are turning to fermentable fibres.
By increasing populations of intestinal bacteria that consume nitrogen, fermentable fibre can increase nitrogen elimination via the feces, relieving the kidney from a nitrogen burden.
Healthy dogs on a low-protein diet fed soluble fibres demonstrated an amino-acid-sparing effect (or protein sparing effect, since proteins are made up of amino acids) and increased fecal elimination of nitrogen. This highlights the ability of fiber and gut bacteria to influence the absorption and excretion of nutrients, potentially allowing for continued protein consumption while maintaining kidney function.
It's important to note: the information above is based on animal-based protein studies. Based on recent research, plant-based protein seems to have different outcomes in canine (and human) health.
6. Don't overdo it
Fibre = good. There is no doubt. But — as with all things — you can overdo it.
High amounts of insoluble fibre can lead to gastrointestinal disturbances, rapid weight loss, dull coat, and decreased nutrient and calorie absorption. Likewise, too much soluble fiber can leave your dog’s stomach cramped and upset. And excessive consumption of fermentable fibre is known to specifically interfere with protein absorption in dogs.
Beyond the impact on nutrient digestion and the GI tract, overconsumption of fibre can also lead to liver complications.