The name “Vitamin” was created by research scientist Casimir Funk over 100 years where he identified that some dietary compounds, which if not present, led to the development of certain diseases. He believed these essential dietary compounds were amines and derived name “Vitamin” by combining the Latin word “vita” meaning “life” with the chemical term “amine”. Whilst it is true that some vitamins are amines, for example, thiamine, others such as vitamin C and D are not. He was, however, correct that they are all vital for life as they drive almost all metabolic reactions that occur in the body.
Unfortunately for vitamin nutrition, much of the available information for pets and many other species is often dated, Consequently, there is growing interest to redefine the terms of deficiency and nutritional requirement by understanding the functions of vitamins at a deeper cellular level and their impact on life-long health. Measurements of the effect of vitamin nutrition on health and wellbeing now includes evaluation of biochemical or cellular markers of certain systems such as the immune function, DNA integrity, antioxidant status, or even bone strength, the ability to do work, improvements to skin integrity, or condition of the hair. In addition, we must also consider the area of nutrigenomics in clinical animal nutrition research and how that could be used to define nutrient requirements and evaluate lifetime outcomes of more appropriate vitamin intake. What is clear, is that these modern measurements are in stark contrast to the classical, overt vitamin deficiency diseases considered in early work and used to define requirement, for example, niacin and pellagra otherwise known as black tongue disease in the dog. We are therefore now moving into the realm of “Optimal Vitamin Nutrition” or OVN® to establishment of the amount of a nutrient required for ‘optimal’ health and wellbeing. The concept of Optimal Vitamin Nutrition is illustrated in figure 1.
The Optimal Vitamin Nutrition concept from DSM follows but is not limited by governmental or industry association nutrient guidelines, mainly NRC, AFFCO or FEDIAF, and considers the evidence for vitamin supplementation in terms of additional functional or long-term health needs of the pet, its lifestage and physiological state. DSM’s Optimal Vitamin Nutrition approach to supporting the animal biochemically is through a combination of nutrients. If therefore we consider, as a case, the geriatric dog or cat, they are unlikely to just suffer from one condition or disease, it thus compels the argument that a balanced combination of optimally supplied vitamins would make more sense and be more likely effective than enhancement of just one. Optimal vitamin nutrition considers a balanced supplementation approach which is essential to optimizing a “team” of vitamins to provide suitable benefit to furry companions.
Vitamins are long-established nutritional ingredients, clearly recognized for their health benefits. In a DSM, USA consumer survey (2008), 100% of respondents knew about vitamin C, with over 90% being able to report one or more health benefits. European pet parent knowledge of vitamin nutrition was also established in a 2017 survey, with over 80% of respondents confirming agreement with stated functionality of a variety of vitamins (Figure 2).
As the pet humanization trend continues, pet parents are often found searching for or relate to products mimicking trends in human vitamin nutrition and health. Using high quality vitamin supplementation is one way that pet food and treat manufactures can leverage this consumer awareness and the pet parent desire to support their furry children’s wellbeing with the very best nutrition. Optimal Vitamin Nutrition communicates to these parents, that the food or treat product is formulated to better support the specific health needs of their pet.
The DSM 2017 pet parent survey 72% of pet parents agreed with the statement that “Seeing Optimal Vitamin Nutrition on the packaging tells me that my dogs’/cats’ food contains high quality vitamin supplementation”. In turn, optimal vitamin nutrition helps support the long-lasting interaction expected between the pet and its caretaker by addressing possible health concerns related to coat condition, immune status, cognitive behavior, antioxidant status or stamina during exercise, correct growth and development of the young, and concerns regarding healthy aging.
An optimal vitamin approach to supplementation of pet foods ensures that whatever the circumstance, animal profile or feeding behaviour of the owner, micronutrient nutrition as such should not be a limiting factor in maintaining a pet’s well-being. By working to achieve Optimal Vitamin Nutrition and communication to pet parents about the functionality of vitamins included their pets’ food is one way to demonstrate that it will deliver health.
21 August 2019
Sarah-Jane is an Animal Science graduate from Nottingham University in the UK. She has been with DSM Nutritional Products since June 2006. Prior to working at DSM, she worked for a national feed compounder as a monogastric nutritionist. Sarah-Jane is an experienced pet food technical and marketing manager, passionate about supporting the health and welfare of pets. Not only at DSM pets focus her daily work, they also feature at home. Sarah-Jane is a pet parent to an Irish Cob pony and two lively yellow Labradors.
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