The calcium to magnesium ratio is as important in the absorption of calcium as Vitamin D. In fact, this may be more important. The current theory is that “like-to-like” such as mineral-to-mineral” aids in better absorption. Fat-soluble vitamins require the proper amount of fat circulating in the body to be properly absorbed, the same applies to minerals.
Furthermore, there is a growing amount of scientific evidence pointing to high calcium - low magnesium intake leading to calcification, or hardening, of arteries (atherosclerosis—the number one cause of death in the U.S.), osteoporosis and osteoporotic bone fractures.
The optimum ratio of calcium to magnesium in the diet is a 1:1 ratio. Unfortunately, most formulated diets contain a 4:1 ratio respectively. High calcium to magnesium ratios results in free-floating calcium finding harbor in arteries, joints, and soft tissues. One can easily understand how this could lead to the formation of arterial plaque, arthritis, and soft tissue disorders. Calcium that is not absorbed may lead to calcium leaching from bones leading to osteoporosis as the body seeks to provide more calcium to those parts of the body sensing that the body is experiencing a lack of calcium due to a low absorption rate.
It is important to know your bird’s calcium intake from various food sources and the bioavailability of those sources.“Balanced nutrition” is vital in healthy homeostasis, maybe more important than “total and complete nutrition” or even “diverse variety” of food. If your bird’s diet does not provide “balanced nutrition” then eventually your bird will suffer illness and health disorder. In fact, your bird may develop chronic autoimmune disorders that are difficult to diagnose and require long periods of time to reverse.
How do we balance calcium in our birds’ diets?
Gather as much information about all of the nutrients in your bird’s daily diet and all of the individual foods and treats you feed to your bird in a 24 hour period. Calculate the amount of each of those foods. Find a good online food and nutrient calculator such as the USDA Food Composition Data Base located here: https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/list. Find the food that best matches the foods you are feeding and the amount of each of those foods. Add the nutrients of those foods for the specific nutrient you are attempting to balance. Using the data base will give you a good idea if the ratios say for example in this case calcium to magnesium is correct for your bird’s diet in general. Of course, to accomplish this task, you will need to know the calcium level in each food you are feeding. If you are feeding a formulated food along with individual foods, this may not be possible. You will need to assume that the formulated food already contains “balanced overall nutrition” for all nutrients. This is where you really need to trust the producer of the formulated food you are feeding! Remember, food producers are not legally required to provide the levels of individual nutrients in their foods (if they were required to do this theoretically their foods could be reversed engineered by a competitor); they are only required to provide the guaranteed analysis of protein, fat, fiber, and moisture.
Still, unless you can accurately calculate all foods you feed, in detail, you will not have a complete outline of your bird’s total and complete nutritional intake. It’s always a good idea, to begin with, a lab-tested formulated diet tested for “balanced nutrition” and then feed additional organic, fresh foods along with that formulated diet. It is highly unlikely that you will throw the daily nutritional balance too far off by following this method of feeding. It is very likely that your bird’s overall nutritional balance could be lacking if you are feeding totally fresh or only a formulated diet. A living body can compensate to a degree when offered a nutritionally balanced diet, one that contains a formulated food along with additional fresh foods. It’s very difficult to feed enough variety to supply all of the nutrients necessary for a living body to thrive in the economy of today’s food availability. Unfortunately, food is not a pure, wholesome and nutritious as it once was. Our soils are nutrient-depleted. We must count on those who know how to formulate foods to combine foods for maximum optimization of nutrients in those formulated foods. Then, when we feed fresh foods along with those formulated foods, we can feel secure in knowing we are offering the best of both worlds.
Having stated all of this, I do not promote highly processed kibbles and pellets for any pet or even highly processed foods for ourselves. These types of foods are processed using high pressure and high heat and often use hydrogenated oils. High pressure and high heat literally destroys all digestive enzymes, alters proteins, destroys healthy naturally occurring Omega 3s, alters the structure of Omega 6s, alters carbohydrates (fiber), destroys most vitamins and alters many of the minerals. Synthetic proteins, dietary fats, synthetic vitamins and some minerals need to be added back in to boost the nutrient levels – these synthetics are not utilized by a living body in the same, exact manner as naturally occurring nutrients because “isolated” nutrients are used instead of naturally occurring, bioavailable nutrients that contain co-nutrients which compliment one another for total absorption.
I suggest feeding a formulated raw diet, minimally processed which uses low, gentle dehydration or a freeze-drying process. Then almost all naturally occurring nutrients are retained thereby abandoning the need to add unreliable synthetic nutrients back in. Now you have a reliable formulated diet when tested by a 3rd party laboratory for “balanced nutrition.” When this formulated diet, fed along with fresh, organic food, you can feel secure that your pet is receiving optimum balanced nutrition!
©7/18/2018 Passion Tree House LLC – Machelle Pacion Avian Nutrition Specialist – All Rights Reserved
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August 04, 2018
Yes, I understand Jeannie. Most commercial foods are loaded with synthetic vitamins and mineral salts. This is not the case with our formulated, lab-tested foods.
Also, keeping in mind that our captive, companion birds do not live in the wild, we try to formulate a “balanced diet” to meet the requirements of birds that don’t have access to all of the wonderful foods they would find in the wild.
Furthermore, let’s remember where most exotic birds are from – there is very little change of season in most regions where these birds are from. So eating “seasonally” is not much of an issue. Most of the foods they would eat in the wild would be available most of the time, not less of the time, or long gaps without certain foods. Yes, I understand birds receive balanced nutrition over long periods of time. No disagreement there. But again, we are dealing with captive birds that don’t have access to large varieties of foods they would find in the wild. Still, this is why I always recommend feeding fresh foods in addition to our foods; their diet is somewhat changed from (domestic) season to season which not only allows their systems to function more normally, but actually forces their systems to work and not just get “used to” the same nutrients day in and day out – which would cause their systems to become apathetic and lethargic, potentially losing the ability to function properly.