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Vitamins: Natural versus Synthetic in Dog Food

Vitamins: Natural versus Synthetic in Dog Food

by Auriane Hurtes MSc Nutritionist

As we learn more through scientific progress, we achieve solutions that we once thought impossible. Great scientific inventions such as, killing off bacterial infections, being able to communicate around the globe and having access to an enormous amount of information. 

Harmful consequences of processing

You may be wondering what this has to do with your pup’s food? 

The majority of pet food consumed by our dogs today is kibble which is highly processed and to a lesser extent, wet food is also processed. The method of creating these processed foods involves cooking the ingredients at high heat, in some cases extreme heat and/or pressure (ultra-high temperature (UHT)/pressure (HPP)) in order to make it easier to digest, kill any pathogenic bacteria and increase its shelf life.

This might sound like so far so good, however, heating at such temperatures has serious consequences on the food hence on how nourishing it will be for your dog: 

  • While it kills pathogenic bacteria, it also kills beneficial bacteria referred to as the gut microbiome which is crucial to the dog’s health;
  • Heat destroys enzymes which are molecules that digest (breakdown) food to products your dog can absorb and use as energy;
  • Loss of vitamins and minerals occurs above 120°F. 

As commercial pet food is commonly heated beyond 300°F, the vitamins and minerals have been destroyed. Chemists have replicated vitamins in a lab, known as synthetic vitamins which are then added to the pet food.    

The science of vitamins

Scientists discovered vitamins in the early 1900s and they became a hot research topic in the 1930s-40s when the public took an interest in their role in health. Today, researchers are still interested in vitamins and their chemical composition but they’ve realized they are much more complex than they initially thought. This makes replicating natural vitamins in a lab almost impossible. Complete vitamins are made up of trace elements, enzymes, co-enzymes and co-factors. For instance, vitamin B appears in 17 forms while vitamin D appears in at least a dozen forms and components. This is just from what scientists currently know and research is always striving to discover more.

Synthetic or man-made vitamins:

The complexity of vitamins hasn’t stopped researchers from attempting to recreate  vitamins in a lab. So far, vitamins B1, C (ascorbic acid), A (beta-carotene), D and E (dl-alpha-tocopherol) exist in synthetic forms. In the case of Vitamin C, the synthetic form is purely (100%) ascorbic acid which is only one component of the vitamin C complex, representing only 5% (5 of 100 components). 

Due to the complexity of a vitamin, the difference between natural and synthetic vitamins can be worlds apart!

Several studies have shown this to be true by feeding vitamin deficient animals either a synthetic form or a wholefood source of that vitamin. Compared to a natural vitamin, a synthetic one didn’t stay in the body as long and either didn’t prevent a health disorder or did but to a much lesser extent. This is one of the key issues with processed dog food, where dogs aren’t getting the natural vitamins and minerals that they need.

Feeding for Health:

Given the complexity of vitamins it’s not a surprise that those made by humans in a lab are very different to naturally occurring ones! While natural vitamins are highly recommended for their antioxidant properties and multiple other health benefits, they cannot be compared to synthetic vitamins which are much less efficient, if at all.  

Whole-foods are the best source of vitamins. Since heat destroys them, avoid highly processed food such as kibble. If you see added vitamins and minerals, it is often an indicator that the naturally occurring ones have been destroyed, whether by heat or pressure. 

Given the complexity of natural vitamins, with their multiple components interacting, we can’t expect their fundamentally different synthetic counterparts to share their health benefits. Puppy Gang Fresh Foods value natural vitamins which is why recipes use whole foods which are gently steamed at low temperatures, ensuring minimal losses which your pup’s health will benefit from!

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