Synthetic Vitamins and Minerals in Dog Food Ingredients | Dogs Naturally Magazine
For 25 points, the answer is menadione bisulfite, which may cause anemia.
The question is, what’s Vitamin K in “natural” pet food?
For 50 points, the answer is retinyl palmitate, which may cause loss of appetite, irritability or bone changes.
The question is, what’s Vitamin A?
For 100 points, the answer is ascorbic acid, which may cause diarrhea, dry nose or nose bleeds.
The question is, what’s Vitamin C?
Pet owners have long ago learned to inspect pet food labels for meat terminology, order of protein and grain sources and presence of artificial preservatives. But how many discerning pet parents know how to review the long list of vitamins and minerals on the package?
Who would think that these could be the most detrimental of all the ingredients?
Why are vitamins and minerals added to dog foods?
Don’t vitamins and minerals occur naturally in the foods we eat?
To put it simply, there are not enough in processed foods to prevent disease. When a meat, grain, vegetable or fruit is cooked or heat processed in any manner, nutrients are lost to varying degrees. This is an accepted fact in the pet food industry. The industry is aware that certain minimum levels of vitamins and minerals are necessary to avoid devastating disease. The same industry is aware that excesses of synthetic vitamins and minerals can also cause devastating disease. Consumers have been trained to believe that foods that are approved by the pet food industry watch dog, the American Association of Feed Control Operators (AAFCO) are safe and balanced.
But, are they?
Why we need synthetic ingredients
In order to gain AAFCO approval, a pet food must meet a feeding trial requirement or a standard vitamin and mineral requirement. The least expensive way to meet this requirement is to add an accepted blend of premeasured synthetic vitamins and minerals to a processed diet.
Another way would be to add large amounts of healthful foods, which would provide enough nutrition despite the processing, but expensive testing or feeding trials would be necessary to prove the foods are adequate. For this reason, most manufacturers add the standard vitamin-mineral mix. This mix may be added to canned, kibble, freeze dried, or even commercial frozen raw diets.
How can you recognize the vitamins and minerals on the ingredient label?
Grab a bag of kibble. If it calls itself “natural,” it quite likely also states “with added vitamins and minerals.” AAFCO requires this statement because the vitamins and minerals are synthetic, not natural. The group is usually listed in the middle to bottom of the ingredient label, as all ingredients are listed in order of weight. Most of the names will sound like chemicals.
Here is a typical sample “natural” brand with added vitamins and minerals:
Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Oats, Barley, Rice, Menhaden Fish Meal, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols) Natural Chicken Flavors, Flaxseed, Dried Egg Product, Potatoes, Carrots, Herring, Natural Flavors, Whole Eggs, Apples, Carrots, Sweet Potatoes, Herring Oil, Dried Kelp, Potassium Chloride, Dicalcium Phosphate, Salt, Garlic, Vitamin E Supplement, (various fermentation products), Calcium Carbonate, Choline Chloride, Zinc Sulfate, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Ferrous Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Niacin, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Riboflavin, Sodium Selenite, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Calcium Iodate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Biotin, Cobalt Sulfate, Rosemary Extract.
Unnatural vs natural, does it matter?
Let’s analyze just one mineral out of the above list of synthetic additives: sodium selenite.
Sodium selenite contains selenium. When we eat natural, unprocessed, whole foods such as nuts, meat, mushrooms, fish or eggs, we eat selenium that is complexed and consumed along with other nutrients which help the selenium function properly in the body. “Humans and animals derive selenium primarily from foods. In plants and animals, selenium is primarily localized in the protein fraction” (Ferretti and Levandar, 1976). Brazil nuts are the richest dietary source of selenium. High levels of selenium are also found in kidney, tuna, crab, and lobster. But, these foods contain selenium, not sodium selenite.
“Both mutagenic activity (cancer causing) and antimutagenic (cancer preventing) activity have been attributed to selenium; the concentration and the chemical form in which selenium is administered appear to be critical in determining its effects. At the trace levels normally found in biological systems (plants and animals), selenium apparently acts as an antimutagenic, oxygen-radical scavenger, but at higher concentrations selenium is capable of inducing mutations (cancer). Arciszewskaet al, 1982; Shamberger, 1985; Kramer and Ames, 1988
Where does sodium selenite come from anyway? Sodium selenite is prepared by evaporating an aqueous solution of sodium hydroxide (lye or drain cleaner) and selenous acid (Merck Index 1983). Selenous acid is produced by combining water and selenium dioxide which is produced during the industrial purification of copper.
Does this sound like something we should eat?