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Labradors’ love for lunch: A genetic explanation

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Labradors are known for loving their food, and a study from the University of Cambridge has found out why. Approximately 25% of Labradors have a special gene, called POMC (Pro-opiomelanocortin), that makes them feel hungrier than other dogs and also means they do not burn off calories as quickly. making it harder for owners to keep them at a healthy weight.

Dr. Eleanor Raffan from the University of Cambridge led the study, and her findings show that the nation’s most-owned breed do not necessarily eat more in one sitting, but they get hungry again more quickly than other breeds. They also do not burn as many calories while resting. This genetic change was not common in other dog breeds, except the Flat-coated Retriever, a close relative of the Labrador. 

In the study, several tests were conducted to assess the dogs’ behaviour around food, including the intriguingly named ‘sausage in a box’ challenge. This particular test involved dogs trying to reach a visible but inaccessible sausage, revealing their level of hunger. The results showed that Labradors with the POMC gene mutation were particularly persistent in trying to get to the sausage, which indicates a stronger sense of hunger compared to other dogs.

But this study is not just relevant to dogs; it can potentially help find answers to why some people struggle with their weight. The researchers found that this gene change affects brain chemicals that deal with hunger and burning energy, which is a new finding that challenges what scientists knew from previous studies.

The research was supported by Dogs Trust and Wellcome, and the full report can be found here

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