Obesity Affecting America's Laboratory Animals

Obesity has grown into such a big problem that it's even seen in laboratory animals that live under controlled conditions. David Berreby writes in Aeon:

[...] over the past 20 years or more, as the American people were getting fatter, so were America’s marmosets. As were laboratory macaques, chimpanzees, vervet monkeys and mice, as well as domestic dogs, domestic cats, and domestic and feral rats from both rural and urban areas. In fact, the researchers examined records on those eight species and found that average weight for every one had increased. The marmosets gained an average of nine per cent per decade. Lab mice gained about 11 per cent per decade. Chimps, for some reason, are doing especially badly: their average body weight had risen 35 per cent per decade. Allison, who had been hearing about an unexplained rise in the average weight of lab animals, was nonetheless surprised by the consistency across so many species. ‘Virtually in every population of animals we looked at, that met our criteria, there was the same upward trend,’ he told me.

It isn’t hard to imagine that people who are eating more themselves are giving more to their spoiled pets, or leaving sweeter, fattier garbage for street cats and rodents. But such results don’t explain why the weight gain is also occurring in species that human beings don’t pamper, such as animals in labs, whose diets are strictly controlled. In fact, lab animals’ lives are so precisely watched and measured that the researchers can rule out accidental human influence: records show those creatures gained weight over decades without any significant change in their diet or activities. Obviously, if animals are getting heavier along with us, it can’t just be that they’re eating more Snickers bars and driving to work most days. On the contrary, the trend suggests some widely shared cause, beyond the control of individuals, which is contributing to obesity across many species.

Link -via Glenn Reynolds

(Photo: Steve Jurvetson)

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"In fact, lab animals’ lives are so precisely watched and measured that the researchers can rule out accidental human influence..." Um, really? Working for a rodent breeder I saw many unfed rats, rats in filthy cages, rats drowned or with infected sores on their bodies due to being on wet bedding when the watering tubes leaked and rats dead of dehydration when the watering tubes were blocked. The excuse was that people responsible for their care couldn't be everywhere or see everything. So unless there has been a drastic change in the care of rodents their care is completely random and haphazard and their living conditions are a wild card.
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