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Eat like a Pig to Combat Obesity

van Kempen, T. and R. Zijlstra

Obesity and related metabolic health issues are a growing human threat, with many theories regarding its causes. In swine, physiologically alike to humans, considerable knowledge on obesity mechanisms has been accumulated. Calorie counting is the basis for managing swine diets and applied with great accuracy. Epigenetic programing predisposes pigs to insulin insensitivity, but pigs seem to sense this insensitivity and consequently eat less, preventing obesity. Pigs naturally prefer to eat small breakfasts and large dinners. Deviating from this eating pattern or providing diets with a high glycemic burden can trigger obesity; however, pigs will restrict food intake to prevent serious obesity. Interestingly, in practice, problems with obesity are rarely seen, even when pigs are fed poorly timed diets similar to junk food, likely because swine diets are balanced for every nutrient. Indeed, feeding pigs diets deficient in micronutrients does trigger obesity. For humans, several micronutrient requirements have not been set officially, and diets optimized for all micronutrients are rarely provided.

In conclusion, various obesity triggers are being debated for humans, which have been proven in swine. Obesity problems in pigs are nevertheless less excessive, likely because pigs recognize unhealthy eating practices and consequently reduce food intake to avoid serious complications. Finally, swine diets are normally balanced for all nutrients, which may be an important practice to prevent obesity, from which human health could greatly benefit.