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A 2013 science paper attempts to prove dogs evolved for a starch diet

a raw meat dog diet dog

a raw meat dog diet dog Rebuttal of ” The genomic signature of dog domestication reveals adaptation to a starch-rich diet” paper

The latest piece of research (2013) purporting to prove that dogs have adapted to eat starch, has the subtext that its ok to push this ability to tolerate some starch, to dog manufacturers forcing dogs to eat 80% of their food as grains and starch!

Some science such as this Swedish 2013 paper written about ‘dog evolution’ is just such a thinly veiled front for dog food manufacturer company propaganda. It is amazing how anyone (except those selling grain dog food) can swallow it! No, I have not found the proof of their complicit backing (see their funding at the bottom of this article), but then again, their ‘proof’ of dogs requiring grain is as flimsy as ever. Many smoke and mirrors, science and gene terms to “propose” or “indicate” that dogs can handle grain, but no hard science.

And of course this all ignores the question of the BEST food for dogs (ie meat) and why it is better than grain.

Dog food History

Because dog nutritionists with common sense and observation of wolves and wild dogs have noted that they are 95% carnivore (will eat berries if meat unavailable and need to survive) researches have jumped on this claim (potentially backed by dog food companies) to prove that dogs like grain based foods!

Unfortunately butchers do not have billions of dollars to do research to prove that dogs eat meat, that should be a stupid concept, if it weren’t for the fact that 97% of dogs eat grain as their major diet, because that is what shops sell them in packs called DOG FOOD!

Since this is the first serious research to back up the billion dollar dog food industries instance on using cheap grains as the main dog food source, it is worth analysing what the scientist have actually proved, and what they are trying to say.

The PAPER premise is “The domestication of dogs was an important episode in the development of human civilization. The precise timing and location of this event is debated and little is known about the genetic changes that accompanied the transformation of ancient wolves into domestic dogs. [The scientists decided to] conduct whole-genome re-sequencing of dogs and wolves to identify 3.8 million genetic variants used to identify 36 genomic regions that probably represent targets for selection during dog domestication. Nineteen of these regions contain genes important in brain function, eight of which belong to  nervous system development pathways and potentially underlie behavioural changes central to dog domestication.”

Ten genes with key roles in starch digestion and fat metabolism also show signals of selection. We identify candidate mutations in key genes and provide functional support for an increased starch digestion in dogs relative to wolves. Our results indicate that novel adaptations allowing the early ancestors of modern dogs to thrive on a diet rich in starch, relative to the carnivorous diet of wolves, constituted a crucial step in the early domestication of dogs.”

The whole research suggests that it innocently attempted to unravel the mystery of dog domestication, but along the way found out that dogs are adapted to a “starch rich diet”. they mention several times that either dogs ate what humans gave them (usually not the scarcer meat) or dogs/ wolves ate from food dumps near human residence, so dogs magically adapted their whole digestion process in a few thousand years. They skip any of the specifics, because all of this is pure speculation.

The sample used:   ‘Uniquely placed sequence reads from pooled DNA representing 12 wolves of worldwide distribution and 60 dogs from14 diverse breeds (Supplementary Table 1) covered 91.6% and 94.6%, respectively, of the 2,385 megabases (Mb) of autosomal sequence in the CanFam 2.0 genome assembly”

“Overrepresented terms ‘starch metabolic process’, ‘digestion’ and ‘fatty acid metabolism’ include genes involved in starch digestion (MGAM) and glucose uptake (SGLT1), as well as a candidate gene for insulin resistance (ACSM2A) that initiates the fatty acid metabolism 19. A total of 6 CDRs harbour 10 genes with functions related to starch and fat metabolism   We propose that genetic variants within these genes may have been selected to aid adaptation from a mainly carnivorous diet to a more starch rich diet during dog domestication.”

HDT – NOTE –  I do not doubt the maths or sincerity in the scientists involved, however be aware that when in the results section (not the research proposal part of the research) use terms like “we propose” often indicates that it is still very much a theory because the maths cannot be used as direct proof of their original hypothesis.

Phrases like ” genes may have been selected” are also very suspect as to any kind of genuine proof or conclusion. Papers don’t get read if they are wishy washy or undecided in their conclusions, so to incite interest often the direction of the research and even the paper titles are changed to be more controversial and publishable. Hey, you are reading about this in Australia aren’t you?

This article (hdt article) is part one of three of the analysis of this “science” paper.

In the next two parts we review how even the best of science can only make tangential references to the ability of dogs to tolerate carbs, but totally fail to discuss whether carbs are good for dogs, or if they should stick with what they originally evolved to eat, meat.


The project was funded by the SSF, the Swedish Research Council, the Swedish Research Council Formas, Uppsala University and a EURYI to K.L.-T. funded by the ESF supporting also E.A.; K.M. was funded by the Higher Education Commission, Pakistan.


The Swedish Research Council  is a Swedishgovernment agency established in 2001, with the responsibility to support and developbasic scientific research.

SSF (forskningsradet ) “A thousand researchers from more than 200 institutions in 30 nations are doing science in Svalbard. The Svalbard Science Forum has overview of the scientific activities and promotes research cooperation and coordination. We fund fieldwork for young scientists, workshops and cooperation projects.”

NOTE  SSF often funds the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research (SciLifeLab)

Sweden’s SciLifeLab (2012)  “In a strategic bid to create a national life sciences powerhouse, SSF committed $75 million in 2010 to create SciLifeLab, which was established by Uppsala University, Stockholm University, Karolinska Institutet, and the Royal Institute of Technology.  A pathbreaking Swedish life science research initiative is getting a fresh infusion of funds. The private Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation will be donating $33.4 million, and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca between $5 million and $10 million annually over the next 5 years, to Sweden’s Science for Life Laboratory (SciLifeLab)”

The setup  of SciLifeLab was expected to ” This research focus should also make SciLifeLab an attractive partner for the pharmaceutical industry both in Sweden and globally.”


When you consider that ALL aaffco approved dog food (most dog food in the world) requires a MASS of vitamins and minerals (that cant be achieved by natural food) – it means that a pharmaceutical company always has to supply ingredients to the dog food manufacturer.


The genomic signature of dog domestication reveals adaptation to a starch-rich diet  2013

Erik Axelsson1, Abhirami Ratnakumar1, Maja-Louise Arendt, Khurram Maqbool1, Matthew T. Webster1, Michele Perloski, Olof Liberg, Jon M. Arnemo, A˚ ke Hedhammar6 & Kerstin Lindblad-Toh

Dog Nutrition
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