Of Onions, Oxidative Stress, And FitOldDog’s Love Of Cooking

FitOldDog chops onions.

Do I love onions, or does my body love onions, or is that just asking the same question in two different ways? Chopping and photo by FitOldDog.

We live in a sea of poison, known as oxygen, which leads to oxidative stress. Our cat, Cat, treats onions like poison. To each his poison, but for all of us, cats and non-cats, oxidative stress almost certainly contributes to the acceleration of aging, as stated in this article on oxidative stress in cats:

“Oxidative stress (OS) impairs organic function and is considered causally related to cellular senescence and death…Nutritional strategies in this population [old tomcats] looking for additional antioxidant support would probably avoid the oxidative stress status that predisposes to chronic processes in senior male cats.” Castillo et al., 2013. Eat up your onions, Cat (not CAT! Oxidative stress joke…nerdy laugh!).

FitOldDog's cat, Cat.

FitOldDog’s cat, Cat, does not like onions, but he has specific issues when it comes to oxidative stress. Photo by FitOldDog, with permission.

As I was cooking my breakfast (and I love to cook), comprising one small, non-Paleo, potato (didn’t want to throw it away), pasture butter, kale greens, some leftover baked beans, and assorted spices, when I had an urge to add an onion. We hang up our onions, by the way. And then I thought, “Why do I love onions so much? Biology always has it’s reasons, even though they are not always well reasoned. Cobbled?

So off I Googled, and came across an informative article on the nutritional value of onions, at this link. You could say I like onions because they taste good, which is true. But they probably taste good to me because my body-mind wants something or other that is in the onions, while our cat, Cat, is not of the same opinion, in spite of the many similarities in our metabolism. While studying for my american veterinary pathology board examine, I remember something about horses and cats being susceptible to a particular form of oxidative stress (Heinz Body Anemia? I’m not Googling that, as my pride is involved!), but for different metabolic reasons related to their glutathione pathways. I forget exactly what it was, but I took that exam in 1978, or was it 1979? The point is, each species is slightly different in this respect, so Cat is probably making a wise choice. Forget the onions cat – do cat’s ever listen?

Onions hanging in kitchenASIDE – did you know that the person with the biggest feet always grows the best onions. That’s what my Mom always said, anyway, and I believe it, as onions like really firm soil.

I meditated further, on my desire for an onion, as my breakfast simmered, which had led me to Google in the first place, where I found in the reference, cited above, that onions contain a number of valuable antioxidants that are purported to help us live more safely in our sea of poisonous oxygen (18% of the air we breath, if I remember correctly, of which about 1% ends up as toxic superoxide radicals, and a small percentage of that transmogrifies into some very nasty radicals indeed, the hydroxyl radical and friends, but it’s all becoming very fuzzy in my mind). I won’t bore you with all the details of this massive topic, but in order to demonstrate that I did think about it once upon a time, here is an article I wrote years ago on the subject. It attracted some interest (which is no measure of the value of a piece of scientific research, in the long run, by the way). You’ll note that I didn’t do this work alone:

 FitOldDog gene expression paper on oxidative stress

Cat working out 300

Our cat, Cat, working out!

At that time, I was obsessed with a desire to understand oxidative stress, to the point of building a pretty big lab and a pretty large computer model, all directed towards improving my understanding of this fascinating topic. I dug deep, but when it comes to oxidative stress, and the effects of all those reactive byproducts of our inhaled oxygen, and the biological systems put in place to combat them, the subject is vast and mind boggling.

Damn, that was a really good onion. I feel my toxic radicals popping out of existence. I think I’ll use some more in my curry sauce tonight, but time to work out now. Not too hard, as that also contributes to oxidative stress.

Can’t win for trying, so just do as Cat advises, by choosing what feels right for you.



    • Onions contain an ingredient called thiosulphate which is toxic to cats and dogs. The ingestion of onions causes a condition called hemolytic anemia, which is characterized by damage to the red blood cells. Onion toxicity can cause the red blood cells circulating through your pet’s body to burst.

      Symptoms of this condition include breathlessness, lethargy, diarrhea and vomiting.

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.