Cat looks at the camera

Choline-Supplementation in Obese Cats

Bloodwork from supplemented cats shows promise for liver health and obesity treatment

Congratulations to Alex Rankovic, MSc, PhD (Candidate) for her recent publication in the journal, Animals, Serum Lipid, Amino Acid and Acylcarnitine Profiles of Obese Cats Supplemented with Dietary Choline and Fed to Maintenance Energy Requirements.

Serum lipid, amino acid and actlcarnitine profiles of obese cats supplemented with dietary choline and fed to maintenance energy requirements. Adronie Verbrugghe, Alexandra Rankovic, Shafeeq Armstrong, Amanda Santarossa, Gordon M. Kirby and Marica Bakovic. Obesity affects 19-63% of cats globally. Choline is an essential nutrient that has been shown to reduce the accumulation of hepatic fat in obese rats. Purpose: To assess the effects of dietary choline supplementation in obese cats fed at maintenance energy requirements on serum lipid, amino acid and acylcarnitine profile Methods: 12 obese male and female cats were used. The cats were divided into two groups fed a control diet (0.19% choline) or a choline rich diet (2.86% choline) for 5 weeks. The choline dose used in this study to exert the effects discussed below were five times the National Research Council's current recommended allowance for cats. Results: Increased serum lipid and lipoprotein concentrations in the high choline group, which suggests increased export of triacylglycerides and very low-density lipoproteins from the liver into circulation. Decreased liver enzyme, alkaline phosphatase, in the high choline group, which suggests improved hepatic health and function in these obese cats.
A preview of our lab’s latest publication! To learn more follow this link to the full manuscript: “

A previous blog post, Cut the Fat But Support the Cat, reviewed Dr. Caitlin Grant’s investigation of essential nutrient intake in overweight cats when fed a veterinary weight loss diet during an episode of energy restriction to induce weight loss. Choline was demonstrated to be a limiting nutrient of interest.  

Choline is an essential nutrient, that cannot be produced by the body in sufficient quantities to meet the body’s needs, and must therefore be obtained, or supplemented, through the diet. Choline plays an important role in fat metabolism. In other species, choline has been shown to reduce the buildup of fat in the liver. 

Feline hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver disease, is a painful, potentially life-threatening condition, resulting in liver damage or failure. As the name suggests, it occurs when excess fat accumulates in the liver and is most common in obese cats. A predisposing factor to feline hepatic lipidosis is energy restriction and weight loss through periods of inappetence, anorexia, or starvation. Despite the health consequences of obesity, avoidance of hepatic lipidosis often leads veterinary teams to be more cautious when planning and executing veterinary weight loss plans for cats, meaning that a slower weight loss rate is often preferred for cats compared to other species such as dogs. 

Obese cats in this study were supplemented with high levels of dietary choline while eating a diet formulated for adult maintenance. Weight loss was not the goal in this study. Cats maintained their obese condition, yet they showed improved liver values on their bloodwork when supplemented with choline. These cats also had increased levels of circulating fats and lipoproteins, which suggest an improved ability for the body to move fat out of the liver. Increased intake of dietary choline may improve the safety and efficacy of weight loss in the treatment and care of obese cats.  

The presented research project was supported by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Engage Grant in partnership with Elmira Pet Products.

The OVC Pet Nutrition Team continues to investigate the role of choline for healthy weight in pets. Stay tuned for more information! 

Written by: Shoshana Verton-Shaw, RVT, VTS (Nutrition)
Edited by: Alex Rankovic, MSc, PhD (Candidate)
Dr. Adronie Verbrugghe, DVM, PhD, EBVS Specialist in Veterinary and Comparative Nutrition® (Dip ECVCN)
Infographic by: Cristian Mastrangelo, OVC Pet Nutrition Summer Student