Dr. R. L. Wysong
    It is argued that criteria such as the guaranteed analysis, ingredients list, feeding trial, and digestibility studies objectively determine the merit of pet foods.  Lets look at each of these in more detail.
100% Complete and Balanced
Ground yellow corn, corn gluten meal, soybean meal, poultry by-product meal, animal fat (preserved with BHA, Propyl Gallate), ground wheat, fish meal, meat and bone meal, phosphoric acid, calcium carbonate, dried animal digest, dried skimmed milk, taurine, L-lysine, zinc oxide, ferrous sulfate, niacin, vitamin supplements (A, D-3, E, B-12), calcium pantothenate, citric acid, manganese sulfate, riboflavin supplement, biotin, folic acid, copper sulfate, thiamine mononitrate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of vitamin K activity), calcium iodate.
Feeding Instructions
3 ounces fed daily will supply all the necessary nutrients for maintenance of an adult cat. Consumption will vary depending on the animal and its conditions.
Guaranteed Analysis
Crude Protein                            Min. 31.50%
Crude Fat                                   Min.  8.0%
Crude Fiber                                Max. 4.5%
Moisture                                    Max. 12.0%
Ash                                             Max. 5.0%
Calcium                                      Min.  1.2%
Phosphorus                               Min.  1.0%
    The only regulatory requirement regarding ingredients, even for “complete foods”, is that they be listed in their relative order, in terms of amounts used in the formula. The most prevalent ingredient should be first on the list and the least at the end of the list. Also, the ingredients must be named in accordance with the guidelines set forth by AAFCO (The American Association of Feed Control Officials) as put forth in their yearly official listing of all recognized ingredients and exactly how they should be named.
    Ingredients not listed by AAFCO cannot be used. This prevents innovation and forces conformity.  AAFCO is also slow to list or refuses to list  (for some arcane reason) ingredients that have obvious merit, while permitting garbage – literally – to be used with their full aegis.   (Graphic from AAFCO) Examples of omitted and thus prohibited ingredients include a variety of herbs, pollen, spirulina and neutraceuticals.  (See related article on AAFCO’s attempts to regulate nutrient as drugs, p ­­__)
    Here’s an example of how this regulatory system, supposedly designed to enhance and protect health, can do the opposite.  In the wild, a dog or cat would eat pretty much the entire prey, even selecting the viscera first.  Now, if a manufacturer wants to duplicate this by feeding a whole chicken, AAFCO has no name for a whole chicken. AFFCO would say the viscera must be called “by-products” and the rest would be called “chicken” (to represent the meat parts.) The problem is the consumer would be led to believe this is an inferior product because “by-products” are considered inferior.  In fact, such whole prey type product would be superior.
    Another example is the inability to list sea salt.  AAFCO only permits the word salt on the label and thus the trace mineral merits of sea salt, if used by a manufacturer, are hidden from the consumer.  If a manufacturer uses the more expensive form of sea salt they must do so because of principle, knowing it will help animals even though they receive no credit or market edge for doing so.
    Clearly, any natural food item should be cleared automatically for use in pet foods and nomenclature permitted that tells consumers what is used.
    Does AAFCO’s regulation that ingredients be listed in relative amounts have merit?  Processed pet foods are basically a recipe: so many cups of corn, so many cups of meat, so many cups of rice, and soon and so forth. (Actually it is not cups, it is tons or pounds or percentages.)   However, listing by relative amounts can be misleading.
    Consider a food formula with corn listed number one, and then poultry by-product meal listed number two, meat meal listed third, rice listed fourth, and so forth.  It would appear that corn is most predominant, and the next most prevalent ingredient is poultry by-­product meal, the next meat meal, and next rice. But that is not necessarily so.  If there are 200 pounds of corn, and 200 pounds of poultry by-product meal, 200 pounds of meat meal, and 200 pounds of rice, the ingredients can be listed in any order. So if a producer wants to present his product as predomi­nantly meat, he is going to list the poultry and the meat meal first, whereas if he wants to argue the merits of rice, he could list rice first.
    Here’s another example. Since meat listed first on the label is usually a marketing advantage, some producers may use fresh meat, which is over 70% water. This moves meat up on the label since a dried finished product is only about 10% moisture. Another product containing a dried meat ingredient (less than 10% mois­ture) may only list it in a third or forth position but actually contain more meat protein than the product with fresh meat in the number one position.  (This does not speak to the nutritional merits of fresh meat as opposed to rendered dried meats. See p__.) If the quantity of protein is the objective then rendered pre-dried meat, regardless of quality, would be used.  If quality of protein were the objective then fresh meat ingredients would be the key. The ingredient list does not address the issues for the consumer.
    Finally, let’s say a label lists corn first, then chicken breast, fillet mignon, and lobster tails. It would appear that this is really an exceptional product. Attention would immediately be drawn to the exceptional expensive ingredients. But the product could be formulated such that 99% of the ingredients would be corn with only 1% then spread among the other ingredients.
    Thus there can be many games, artifice and skullduggery played with formulations to attempt a marketing advantage. The ingredient listing therefore gives no truly objective, reliable and credible information about the nutritional merit or health-enhancing benefits of pet foods.
    Let’s look at the label analysis, the percentage of protein, fat, ash and so forth. There is that tendency, and rightly so, for those trained scientifi­cally, to want to be precise, to see numbers. But, the quantitative tools to measure nutritional merit are a mirage of objectivity.
    It would be very nice to be able to plug a food into a sophisticated superheterodine laser-activated infrared analyzer and have a printout of the quantitative value of a food to the fifth decimal point, but we are far from that technology. We do not even know for sure what questions to ask machines to answer yet. When we do, the answers are as crude as measuring the length of bacteria with a yardstick.
    Nutrition is a frustratingly complex subject for which there are no precise objective guidelines and laws.  It is a science made up of exceptions. As a result, it is necessary that one approach the subject with a priori assumptions to fill the gaping holes in knowledge.
    Let’s look at label analytical values. This analysis is most important with food animals, where short term optimal growth and maximum feed conversion are critical. Volumes of nutrients become important to quantitate since food animals are in effect tissue factories. Although such analytical values provide important information for industry, it is too generalized to provide information needed for long-term health.
    To get growth as rapidly as possible in 7 or 8 weeks in broiler chickens, or to finish hogs or fatten cattle as rapidly as possible, is an entirely different end point project than with human or pet foods. Goals in feeding people, as well as companion animals are to create long and healthy lives. Here, optimizing micronutrients are critical and there may be no measurable benefit for years or decades. Another consideration is that evidence argues, that rapid rate of growth (desirable in farm animals) is actually inversely related to long and healthy life (desirable in pets and people). Thus an animal that is slightly underfed and grows more slowly, has more of an oppor­tunity to live a longer and more disease free life.
    Nutritionist and regulators have not figured these differences out yet and thus attempt to impose food animal logic upon pet foods. This results in their giving preeminence to analytical volumes for things like protein and fat and ignoring or proscribing ingredients that can optimize health.
    Here’s another problem: if it is dictated by government to have, for example, 22% protein and 2% fat and 3% ash in a food, to qualify for the  “complete diet” claim, then producers can put almost anything in the food that achieves those levels. The more difficult and sophisticated nutritional challenges of micronutrient quality can be ignored. There may be adequate growth and AAFCO short-term feeding trials passed, but these feedlot parameters do not address long healthy optimal life.
    Focusing on label analysis lays the groundwork for least-cost feeding.  If 28% protein is required, then the producer can find a cheap source of protein (which is really only a source of nitrogen as you’ll see in a moment) that will give that percent. There need be no regard to whether the ingredient contains any of the other micronutrients that are essential to metabolize the protein.
    Percent protein, percent fat, percent ash, calcium, and phosphorous (the AAFCO label requirements) represent a handful of the over 50 known essential nutrients. What about all the others? How do they measure? Any one of these nutrients can be just as important as the five required on the label by regulators.
    This crude method of measuring nutrition in terms of calories, protein, fat, calcium and phosphorus is far outdated and grossly out of step with current knowledge and research. The argument that an animal is a machine that metabolizes calories, and all that need be done is get those calories to them as cheaply as possible, ignores the goal of health.
    Here is how the guaranteed analysis is calculated. First the food sample is dried, which drives off the moisture. Subtract the weight of the food after it is dried from the beginning weight to get the percent moisture. Next the sample is put through an ether extract. Ether dissolves the fat out of the food. This difference is percent fat. Next, a Kjeldahl analysis determines the amount of nitrogen. This method assumes most protein contains about 16% nitrogen.   Percent Protein is the percent nitrogen multiplied by 6.25 (the factor that results from the assumption of 16% nitrogen: divide 100 by 16 to get 6.25. 6.25 times the percent nitrogen gives percent protein.) Next an acid and alcohol wash removes fiber.  The difference is percent fiber. The last step is to burn what is left over to determine the percent ash, the mineral content.  If all of these are totaled and then subtracted from 100, which would be the total amount of the food in the beginning, percent carbohydrate is the result. For example: a food has 20% protein, 12% fat, 10% water, 5% ash, calcium content of 1.5% and phosphorus at 1.0%. If we add all of those up, that equals 49.5%. Subtract 49.5% from 100% and that will give you 50.5% carbohydrate in the product.
    Let’s run back through this.  Although it all sounds very scientific, precise and empirical, let’s splash some cold water on our brain.  Protein is determined based on the percent nitrogen. The source of the nitrogen is not addressed. Nitrogen can be contributed by any petrochemical product, or by feathers, hooves, leather, toy action heroes... you name it. So percent protein says nothing about the quality of the protein, only the quantity of nitrogen. This is fine for growing corn or cows, but not for pets attempting to achieve optimal health.
    The value of protein is directly related to amino acid content. Organisms require a certain number of essential amino acids.      Some amino acids are considered non-essential. Increasing evidence shows there are no cut and dry ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential’ amino acids. There are contingency requirements not conveniently fitting their definitions. Some animals and some people require many of the “non-essential” amino acids in the daily diet to achieve maximum health. Some require few of the essential amino acids.
    For example, the amino acid glutamine, which is not considered an essential amino acid for the body at large, is essential in certain target tissues. If the tissues that are responsible for producing glutamine fail to do so, then glutamine becomes a contingent essential dietary amino acid.
    Such exceptions abound for every amino acid. All is not really so clear cut or black and white. Such is growing up... in this case nutritionally.
    Even though we may know the percent protein, we don’t know if the protein has been combined, as a result of processing, with carbohydrates in a carmelization reaction. The chemical combinations resulting are totally foreign to natural foods and are carcinogenic. The “percent protein” listing on the label does not reveal this.  Another example of nutrient perversion would be that amino acids are subjected in processing to changes in pH, temperature, or a variety of either physical or chemical interactions; their chemical state is altered. For example, most amino acids are bioavailable in their L-isomeric form.   An amino acid can exist in a left-handed (L) and right-handed (D) form but contain the same exact atoms. The ways atoms are oriented in the molecules make them mirror images of each other. Natural protein, which primarily consists of L-amino acids, when subjected to processing, converts about 50% of the amino acids to the non-bioavailable D- form. There is an equilibrium achieved of the amino acid pool is in the D- form and half in the L- form. So the quality of the amino acids is halved. Again, “% protein” on the label does not reveal this nutritional attrition.
    Another deleterious event is the Maillard reaction. Reducing sugars in some ingredients can combine with the amino acid lysine and render it unavailable. Lysine is a very important amino acid in any food with grains since it is a limiting amino acid. When inactivated in processing it can be nutritionally devastating. Again, this is not revealed on the label.
    Let’s move to percent fat. “12% fat” on label does not reveal what the fat is. We are learning more and more about fat quality as lipid science starts to come of age. (LIPID NUTRITION…) There are essential fatty acids. Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids form important hormone-like eicosanoids.  Different types of fatty acids can affect cardiovascular disease, cancer, immune disorders, arthritis, allergic conditions and a wide array of dermatologic and other health problems.
    The mechanical forces and chemical reactions that can occur in food processing can result in an isomeric change in fatty acids. Unsaturated fatty acids have one or more double bonds in their carbon chain. Depending upon where the hydrogens are in relation to that double bond, the fatty acid is either a cis- (good) form or a trans- (bad) ­form.
    Here’s how processing can reek horror with nutritional fats. Fatty acids are hydrogenated to make them harder - a good example is in the production of Oleo. People don’t like to squirt liquid oils on bread, so manufacturers hydrogenate the oil making it hard like butter. However, when that happens, the oil becomes saturated (the very thing people are trying to avoid when they switch to margarine) and the cis- form changes to the trans- form.  Trans- fatty acids are toxins and can interfere with a variety of important fatty acid transformation steps and metabolic processes. For those who are using Oleo margarines believing this will stave off heart disease, the evidence shows that whether in margarine, snack foods, cookies, breads, etc., these trans-fatty acids exert the opposite effect.
    Does “12% fat” declaration on the label speak to whether essential fatty acids have been isomerically changed to the detrimental trans form? Are there omega-3 fatty acids or omega-6 fats? Omega­-6 fats in excess are believed to be deleterious; the Omega-3’s more beneficial.
    Why have Eskimos not had the problem with cardiovascular disease that Western society has had, even though they may eat several pounds of blubber a day? One reason is probably the beneficial ratios of fatty acids in their fish diet. Wild meat, meat from animals which are eating foods in the wild, we has a ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 entirely different than that in domesticated animals fed commercial rations. Another reason is that they are eating blubber raw.  It is not changed into forms likely toxic. The body is adapted to and capable of metabolizing that which is natural and biological. When foods are heated and altered, new kinds of compounds organisms have not adapted to recognize, and metabolize, become toxins.
    When fats are oxidized, the resulting rancidity changes flavor and aroma. More importantly, oxidization creates wild chemicals, called free radicals. These are formed when oxygen attacks the double bond areas in unsaturated fatty acids. Once formed, free radicals create a chain reaction wrecking nucleic acids, polysaccharides, enzymes, lipid membranes, and so forth. There is compelling evidence that all pathology is ultimately linked to the generation of free radicals. Although the body has a wide range of mechanisms to neutralize free radicals, high doses from food processing may be more than the body is able to overcome. If the fats are preserved to prevent rancidity and free radical formations with synthetics such as BHA, BHT, TBHQ, ethoxyquin or propyl gallate, there is potential toxicity. They are even banned in many countries. These issues are not addressed by “% fat” on a label.
    Percent ash tells us what is left after the food has been burned. Although this represents minerals, we don’t know what form they are in and whether they are utilized well.  It is often said that we are what we eat. We are not.  We are what we absorb. Many minerals must be organically complexed in the gut, whether to carbohydrates or proteins, before they can pass through the gut into the bloodstream and be used in metabolism.
    In natural foods, minerals are already in a chelated, or bound, state with organic molecules. They are readily absorbed. But processed foods contain minerals mined out of the earth - totally inorganic, crystalline products - in the form of ground rock.
    There are a few minerals for which minimums have been established but there are many, many trace minerals that we know have an action in metabolic processes, but we have no idea how much is needed.
    Modern monoculture farming practices, whereby the same crop is grown on the same land year after year, fertilized only with NPK (nitrogen phosphorous and potas­sium), depletes the soil of trace minerals. After a few generations, the crops, and thus our food supply becomes deficient.
    The point is that percent ash is a very crude figure; basically telling us how much rock is in the product. It says nothing about the range of important nutritional minerals, or whether those minerals can even be absorbed.
    Gross energy, is the amount of energy (Calories – kilocalories is the same thing as Calories with a capital “C” and is the amount of heat necessary to increase the temperature of one kilogram of water one degree centigrade) released by the food in a bomb calorimeter. Not all of the gross Calories are available to an organism because some of the Calories are passed in the feces, some in the urine and some are lost as volatile gases. Gross energy needs to be converted to an energy figure that is more meaningful in terms of biological availability. As we go through these calculations understand there is a line of assumptions used in establishing these figures. Unless we know the validity of each of the assumptions, the end result can be no more valid than the weakest link in the chain.
    Gross energy is, as I mentioned, the total amount of Calories in the food, not taking into account what is lost through urine, feces and gases.
    Digestible energy is more meaningful because it allows for what is lost in the feces. Lets go through a label analysis (20% protein, 12% fat, 10% water, 7% ash) to determine digestible energy.
    If 20% protein (.20) is multiplied by 4.40, (which is the amount of kilocalories per gram of protein), the result is .88 kilocalories per gram.
    We can do the same thing with fat. Multiply 12 % (.12) by the amount of kilocalories per gram in fat, 9.4, to get 1.13 kilocalories per gram.
    By adding up all %’s on the label guaranteed analysis (20% + 12% + 10% + 7%) and subtracting them from 100, this leaves 50.5% (50.5) as carbohydrate. Multiply that figure by 4.15, the amount of kilocalories in a gram of carbohydrate to get 2.10 kilocalories per gram contributed by carbohydrate.
    Add the figures for protein fat and carbohydrate:  .88, 1.13, and 2.10- and the total is 4.01 kilocalories per gram. That would be the digestible energy.
    This can be taken another step further to determine what is theoretically delivered, to the metabolism of the organism. This is called metabolized energy. To do this the energy lost in the urine and by volatile gases is subtracted. This decreases the value of each of the factors. For example, fat has a digestible energy density of 9.4. To calculate metabolizable energy, the 9.4 must be multiplied by 90% because 10% of the fat energy is lost in the urine and through volatile gases. That factor is 8.46.  To calculate metabolizable energy carbohydrates, would be 85% of the digestible energy factor of 4.15 kilocalories per gram to give 3.5 approximately as the metabolizable energy in carbohydrates. For protein the metabolizable energy is 85% of the 4.4 kilocalories per gram previously discussed. 85% times 4.4 equals about 3.5.
    In review, the factors for digestible energy are fat 9.4, protein 4.4, and carbohydrate 4.15. But to calculate metabolizable energy, the factors would be 8.46 for fat, protein 3.5 and 3.5 for carbohydrate. These factors, multiplied them by the percentages on the label, would give the metabolizable energy kilocalories per gram of food. Metabolizable energy is going to be a figure less than digestible energy. In this case, a total of 15.6.
     (Incidentally, it is traditionally argued that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie, regardless of the source. But research has now  found that the energy released from a fat calorie is significantly more than the energy released to the body from a carbohydrate calorie. This is because carbohydrates and fats are metabolized differently. A calorie from carbohydrate is not as efficient as a calorie from fat. This and other revelations regarding the thermic effect of a various food components (the digestion and assimilation of some foods expend more energy than others leaving less calories for utilization by the body) disproves the notion that “a calorie is a calorie is a calorie” and would alter the effective calories affected above.)
    So now you know how to calculate calories.  But this is merely an academic exercise. Counting calories might be a problem if we lived a hand to mouth existence. But hardly is that the case. Our modern abundance of food makes calorie glut, not deficit a problem.  But neither is calorie counting beneficial in weight management.  Life style, sedentary living and kinds of calories (excess carbohydrates primarily) are the cause of obesity.
    Focusing on calories to achieve health is like only measuring gasoline to make a cross-country trip. Gasoline might provide the raw energy to get you there, but without a vehicle, oil, roadmap and supplies you’ll never make it. Health too is multifaceted.       Calories are raw energy, but vitamins, minerals, accessory nutrients, fatty acids, proteins, fiber, probiotics, enzymes and the natural food matrix are necessary to reach the goal of health.
    Let’s move to another criterion used to evaluate pet foods, feeding trials. These can take various forms. Feeding trials run for 20 weeks or longer depending upon the life stage tested. During the trial, different parameters are measured, such as hemoglobin, weight gain, and bone length. But feeding trials do not measure nutritional merit necessary for health and long life. A feeding trial merely determines nutritional adequacy for a brief period of time. De­termining whether a food will maintain an animal for 20 weeks is not at all like finding out what the food does to the animal when fed throughout its lifetime, through all of its life stages, or how it affects offspring. The nutritional status of parents can even affect the health of offspring. There are also genetic repercussions from nutrition. It can take two to three generations to revert out of damage done from a generation that has not been fed properly. A feeding trial does not measure the important health criteria.
    Fortunately, there is a basic general prin­ciple, verified by good solid observation and controlled study, which can guide us.     That is, feeding according to the archetypal pattern, in accordance with the genetic expectation of the organism provides the best opportunity for health. Animals, as well as human, in the wild given adequate natural food quantities, do not suffer from the degenerative diseases of today. Most degenerative diseases are directly linked to nutritional inadequacy. This is not something easily measured like protein, fat or calories. Modern nutritional inadequacy in something else... something that has been lost as a result of processing fads, changed agricultural practices, toxins introduced into the food supply, or changes that have resulted from simply heating foods.
    Natural foods are nutrient-dense, not simply high in protein, fat, or carbohydrates, but rather protein, fat and carbohydrate that have associated with them a wide range and concentrated amounts of micronutrients in their naturally complexed and synergistic form.
    These critical criteria are not measured by reductionistic laboratory work, elucidated by label guaranteed analyses or proven with feeding trials. Regulators have it all wrong and trusting in food being “100% complete” because regulators say so is a big mistake. Health is a whole life issue and does not come in a package. To achieve it follow the wisdom in the Wysong Optimal Health Program.