Rebecca L. Remillard, PhD, DVM Diplomate at the American College of Veterinary Nutrition, Staff Nutritionist, Angell Memorial Hospital, Boston, MA, Clinical Assistant Professor, School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University some time ago was asked the following question by a pet owner: “All this talk of "balanced" makes me a little curious. If our pets need balanced meals each and every time they eat, why is it not recommended that I eat three bowls of Total each day? Can you tell why it is OK, even desirable for them to eat a bowl of doggy Total for each and every meal and it is certainly not for me?” The Doctor’s response was: “Nutritionally and legally speaking for pet foods: "Complete" means that all the nutrients known to be required in the diet of the pet are present in the food product. The dog and cat have some 40+ different nutrients known to be required in their diet. "Balanced" means the concentration of the nutrients within the food is correctly proportional to the caloric density of the food. In other words, at the point where the dog or cat has consumed enough food to meet their immediate caloric requirement, all the non-energy nutrients requirements have also been met. For example, in whatever volume of food is needed to meet the animals' energy need, the concentration of calcium, phosphorous and all other minerals and vitamins have been consumed in a sufficient quantity for intermediary metabolism to proceed. Hence nutrient concentrations are best expressed on an energy basis, e.g., grams of Calcium per 100 kcal of food. Do they need all these nutrients every day? No and I know of no qualified veterinary or animal nutritionist who has said or written that they do need all 40 nutrients everyday, although I have heard and read 'others' recommend or say so. However, it is the most prudent statement when making recommendations to masses of people as does the FDA, USDA. If you were responsible for make a feeding recommendation to the owners of over 100 million dogs and cats in the US alone; how would you word it? Nutritionists know that some nutrients are stored in the body while others are needed every day. For example, pets in the USA most likely have months of vitamin A stored in their livers. Other nutrients such as the water soluble vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, etc) are not stored, but eliminated from the body within hours of consuming an excess and therefore these nutrients should be consumed on a daily basis in order for intermediary metabolism to run at peak efficiency. For example, many people note the darker color of their urine within hours of taking a multi vitamin tablet with a water soluble vitamin content, excesses being eliminated and not stored in the body. PEOPLE: I am not a human nutritionist nor will I pretend to be one, but I have read several large nutritional survey completed in children, middle aged adults and the elderly in the USA that confirm we have certain vitamin and trace mineral deficiencies. So the USA population, in general, is not successfully or wisely making their food choices. On the other hand, there is no product sold for people in the US claiming to be complete and balanced for a whole day. Maybe there should be. Clearly most people in this land of plenty are not making the right choices.”
Here we go: “no product sold for people claiming to be complete and balanced.” That’s the key. So if there is no such claim for people food, how can we make that claim for pet food? Don’t we know less about them than we know about ourselves?
This goes right along with ideological idol, Dr. Randy Wysong, D.V.M.. I like him foremost because he thinks the same way I do: If a problem arises and you don’t know how to solve it, go back to the basics, use common sense and think logical. Logical in the most simple sense. Black is black and white is white, zero is zero and one is one. When I grew up, my Dad trained me for my mind to kind of work like a computer. Zero means power off and “No”, One means power on and “Yes”. It’s clear and simple, there is no if’s and but’s about it. Any of those variations again can somehow be explained with “zero or one”. To me only this makes the most sense. If someone tries to explain something to me, however his explanation in my opinion is not logical, then I don’t consider the explanation as valid. There has to be a logical explanation for everything, if not it is a “made up” story.
Dr. Wysong believes that “Nutrition rests on the pillars of the 4 basic sciences.” They are: Genetics, biology, physics and chemistry. Dr. Wysong further says that “Since no one claims 100% knowledge of any of these 4 supporting pillars, how can 100% be known in nutrition? If 100% is not known in nutrition, how can nutritionists create a “100% complete” diet?” Now that indeed makes a lot of sense to me. A 100% complete processed diet requires first a 100% complete knowledge of food, second a 100% complete knowledge of nutrition and third a 100% complete knowledge of food and nutrition requires a 100% complete knowledge of every science. Well, we know, none of those three areas of complete knowledge exist, therefore, logically a “100% complete” processed diet cannot exist.
Let’s try another approach, again, a logical one: In his book “The truth about pet foods” as well as in many others of his writings, he says: “our world is complex beyond comprehension. It is not only largely unknown, it is inknowable in the “complete” sense. In order for nutritionists and manufacturers to produce a 100% complete and balanced pet food, they must first know 100% about nutrition. However, nutrition is not a completed science. It is, in fact, an aggregate science, which is based upon other basic sciences, such as chemistry, physics and biology. But since no scientist would argue that everything is known in any of those 3 basic sciences, how can nutritionists claim to know everything there is to know about nutrition, which is based upon the three basic sciences? This is the logical absurdity of the 100% complete and balanced diet claim.”
“Claiming that anything is 100% is like claiming perfection, total knowledge and absolute truth. Has pet nutrition advanced this far? Does a chemist make such a claim? A physicist? Doctor? Professor? Did Einstein, Bohr, Pasteur, Aristotle, Plato or any of the greatest minds in history make such claims?“ I think Albert Einstein at this point would have said :”People, let’s reason”.
Don’t you agree that at this point we can conclude that the 100% complete claim is actually 100% complete guesswork? Or as Dr. Wysong, who also has a great sense of humor, though sometimes combined with sarcasm, calls it: “At best one could say that such a claim is the firm possibility of a definite maybe.” This basically leads me to conclude that there is actually no answer to the question raised by the pet owner at the very beginning of this article. This pet owner also could have been simply told that the 100% complete and balanced claim is simply unbelievable, regardless whether it refers to pet food or human food. It is a spurious unsupported boast intended to build consumer trust and dependence on regulators and even more so, commercial products. It is, as of this day, still not a way to create optimal health neither in your pet nor in yourself. Isn’t that a logical conclusion? Stay tuned, I like this topic and will talk some more on it.