Something as simple as vitamin C supplementation can be helpful for pets suffering from hip dysplasia according to many experts. (Photo courtesy of the Linus Pauling Institute’s Micronutrient Information center)

A perfect complement to our fruits and veggies series is an interview that I did on micronutrients in foods. It is an important reminder that food is not just about taste, but also the active nutrients that are preserved after picking, shipping, processing and cooking.

To illustrate this, I reached out to the world-famous Linus Pauling Institute (LPI) at Oregon State University in Corvallis. Considered by many to be the father of molecular biology, Pauling was truly one of the great scientists of our time. He won the Nobel Prize for chemistry and for peace. He was published more than 1,000 times on different topics.

Pauling became the household name for vitamin C research. Yet with all his awards, credentials, stature and brilliance, when he started championing the powerful healing effects of vitamin C, he was met with tremendous opposition from the conventional community and even labeled a quack.

But not so today. Scientists such as Alexander Johannes Michels, Ph.D. in biochemistry and biophysics and the communications and research coordinator, will tell you. They are celebrating 20 years of founding the Micronutrient Information Center (MIC).

MIC is a database and information source on foods and essential nutrients. It’s a summary of information from human clinical trials. Their research has expanded to cover a vast array of micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals (plant active constituents) and more. These differ from macronutrients found in larger quantities of food, such as protein, carbohydrates and fats.

Michels says that people and pets are not much different in their needs for micronutrients. The difference is in the amounts. Yes, there is the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for people and Association of American Feed Control (AAFCO) for pets, but that does not account for the varying needs by age, genetics and activity.

There is a difference in being deficient of a component and meeting that minimum versus using components and foods for optimum health. There is also the phenomenon of absorption and interference to affect nutrient uptake.

An expert in vitamin C, Michels did his undergraduate and graduate work exploring this nutrient. He said it took 30 years, but they have finally proven its importance in cancer. He maintains that many of the studies done on C are flawed due to absorption and interference issues, as well as other factors.

They have already found that as people age, they have lower levels of C. But determining the reason is more challenging. Healthy aging is a very important topic right now with people and pets. A new study to track aging in pets, called the Dog Aging Project, was recently launched to study 10,000 canines throughout their lifetimes.

He mentions how sensitive certain components can be. For instance, C doesn’t do well with heat, air or light. It doesn’t work well with copper or iron. He said the minute you start working with it in the lab it starts to degrade. Upper level primates, such as people, do not make their own C. They must get all of it from diet and supplementation.

Pets however do make their own C. But many pet professionals still recommend supplemental C. One theory is that people use to have a plant-based diet and were able to obtain plenty of C from the food, but then they changed to a meat-based diet and all of this changed. One recalls all the stories about sailors getting scurvy from C deficiencies.

One concern that he has for pet parents is to pay attention to fat soluble vitamins such as A, E and K. Although pet food companies use professional formulators, these components can appear in several different sources and create toxicity. They are stored in the fat versus water soluble vitamins such as the B’s and C.

Michels says it seems there is not much interest in funding more C research. The overall thinking is that it has been done. Plus, it’s cheap and readily available. Pharma would not be interested because it’s not a drug. In the last decade, there has been so many new discoveries on the biochemistry of humans and animals that it needs to be done. He says we need to reexamine everything.

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