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Functional Foods and Advances in Pet Nutrition
Many people are now choosing to eat foods which include ingredients
that are widely recognised to have functional benefits in the body that
go beyond simply providing an adequate supply of nutrients. The good
news is that there is now a wide variety of pet foods supplemented with
ingredients selected to support the body's metabolism and natural
Over recent years, there has been extensive research in both human and pet
nutrition exploring the role of a range of natural antioxidants such as
lycopene (found in tomatoes), carotenoids (found in colourful vegetables
such as carrots) and omega-3 fatty acids
in immune response and health. Omega 3 fatty acids have a different
chemical structure to omega 6 fatty acids (see below) and rich sources
include fish and some plants such as flaxseed. The role of naturally
occurring antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acids in influencing and mediating
inflammatory and immune responses within the body is an area of on-going
interest and investigation in both human and animal nutrition.
Intestinal health, function and dietary fibre
Dietary fibres are found naturally in the plants that we eat. They are
parts of plant that are not digested in our stomachs, so they pass through
our system undigested. Dietary fibre is either soluble or insoluble. The
importance of regular intake of dietary fibre is now well recognised in
human health and both types of fibre are important for digestion and
helping to prevent a range of serious health conditions and constipation.
Dietary fibre provides bulk and helps to regulate stool volume and
consistency. Soluble dietary fibre can also have positive health benefits
for the animal by selectively stimulating the growth and activity of the
bacteria that live in the lower part of the intestine (colon), to provide a
natural defence mechanism against invasion by bacteria that are potentially
damaging to the animal with important potential benefits. In good news for
dogs, many prepared pet foods now include selected vegetable fibres, such
as sugar beet pulp and other vegetable fibre sources to help support
Skin & coat condition
A number of nutrients are now known to have a crucial role in the normal
functioning of the skin and coat condition in dogs and cats. These include
protein, essential fatty acids, zinc, Vitamin A, Vitamin E and B-complex
Many prepared pet foods include omega 6 fatty acids found in oilseeds such
as sunflower, canola and safflower. Omega 6 fatty acids are recognised as
important nutrients for reproduction, tissue repair, skin health and coat
condition. B-group vitamins and zinc are also key nutrients for healthy
skin and are widely incorporated into prepared pet foods to support healthy
skin and coats.
Research into pet nutrition continues, providing greater understanding of
the role of specific food ingredients and well-being. A trip to your
supermarket, pet shop or veterinary clinic will provide you many options
for your pet, including foods specifically designed to assist in keeping
older pets mobile, help manage furballs in long haired cats and to enhance
skin and coat or oral health in dogs and cats.
Extensive research in people has shown a positive
association between the consumption of many
food components found in fruits,
vegetables, grains, fish
oil and legumes and their
positive effect on health and
protection against a range of diseases.
These "functional food ingredients", include natural
antioxidants like carotenoids, omega
3 and 6 fatty acids and dietary fibre
for intestinal health.
Many prepared pet foods now include selected
functional ingredients to support your pet's natural
defence mechanisms and contribute to their wellbeing.
This article is for general information only:
This information is provided by the PFIAA as general information only. For
advice and information concerning feeding your individual pet, we recommend
that you seek the advice of your veterinarian.