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Commercial Bird Food Lies and Misinformation: Vitamin K

Recently a well-known commercial bird food manufacturer announced that alfalfa is now a new ingredient which has been added to their foods to supply Vitamin K to their diets.

I can name several nutritional food formulation ideas that came directly from BirD-elicious! Origins Wild Diets – The Best Bird Food: alfalfa, herbs, sprouted seeds and legumes, mealworms, fruit, increased dietary fats, raw, species-specific foods to meet the requirements of the most-kept, companion exotic birds...the list goes on, lol.

We are now adding alfalfa to our recipes to increase the level of Vitamin K in our foods.” – a well-known commercial bird manufacturer states.  -This is just an advertising campaign to make people feel better about using their foods -food manufacturers are not required to reveal the actual lab tests that would show how much and what kind of Vitamin K, or any other specific nutrient for that matter their end product actually contains. Hint:Lab tests for K1, K2, and K3 are the most common Vitamin K tests run on food. K3 is synthetic (menadione, a highly controversial form of Vitamin K used in some pet foods). Even if THAT specific form of Vitamin K shows up in more abundance (probably because K3 may have increased in the recipe), then overall all forms of "Vitamin K" levels will increase shown in the cumulative level. An overall increase in generally reported “Vitamin K” levels that include all forms of Vitamin K doesn’t tell the consumer specifically how much K3 is used in a specific diet. This is VERY DANGEROUS because synthetic Vitamin K has been linked to many deaths due to its presence in pet foods.

There are certain factors which actually work against the absorption of Vitamin K in processed foods and overall individual diet:

  • The lack of healthy dietary fats ingested and present in the bodily system at the time of ingestion of Vitamin K can affect the absorption and any fat-soluble vitamin. If the particular living creature does not have a sufficient level of dietary fat in its system, oil-soluble vitamins, especially the synthetic forms travel to the liver where it sits, collecting and adding to or causing fatty liver/liver damage (hepatic lipidosis).
  • Highly acidic ingredients in the food ingested: grains in general, but rice, wheat, and oats specifically which are used abundantly in commercial pet foods affect the absorption of Vitamin K. These ingredients block the absorption of Vitamin K. Again, it travels back to the liver where it sits potentially causing illness.
  • The existing presence of hydrogenated oils/fats in the recipe can affect the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Hydrogenated oils block the absorption of Vitamin K. What happens then? Read #1 and #2.

Almost all pet foods contain oils…many use cheap grades of oils to cut the cost of production. These oils are used as carriers for synthetic Vitamin A, D, E and K. The most common hydrogenated oils are lecithin (from soy), corn oil, sunflower oil and canola (not a true oil, but human-concocted from industrial rapeseed). Again, most of these oils are processed, the end result being hydrogenated oils which are very dangerous to consume in daily amounts due to their propensity to cause cardiovascular disease and other health problems. Canola oil in particular “derived” from rapeseed oil *requires* processing to remove toxins that are harmful to consume. “Derived” means that commercial processing has been performed to remove these toxins, usually requiring either high heat or mechanical extrusion that can deplete canola oil of naturally occurring nutrients. You want to see “cold-pressed,” “virgin,” and “unrefined,” listed on your pet’s food ingredient listing.

  • Vitamin A, E, and calcium can interrupt the absorption of Vitamin K if the levels of each or both nutrients are too high. Since most commercial pet food manufacturers use synthetic Vitamin A piggy-backed in with Vitamin D, and most vets scream “More calcium in your bird’s diet!,”this of great concern where high levels of Vitamin D is concerned. It is easier for a body to absorb and properly metabolize naturally occurring forms of Vitamin A, D, E and K. Synthetic Vitamin A is almost always too high, in my opinion in commercial birds foods – In fact, I do not believe in using synthetic Vitamin A, D, E and K in formulated bird foods; they are just too harsh and concentrated for the livers of birds to metabolize in general. In regards to calcium, if it is not in proper ratio to magnesium in the diet it can be a threat to proper absorption of Vitamin K, naturally occurring Vitamin K or synthetic. (1, 2)
  • Oxidizing Agents: Certain chemicals act as oxidizing agents. These oxidizers are commonly seen as “nitrites, nitrates and sulfites” (preservatives) in pet foods. Even menadione itself (Synthetic Vitamin K; K3) is an oxidizing agent. Linolenic acid (Omega 6) is also an oxidizing agent causing free radicals and cell destruction. Oxidizing agents can lead to mitochondrial destruction (the “batteries” and energy source of cells) and cytoplasmic membranes (the membrane that protects the interior of cells. These membranes protect the cell from harmful substances entering the cell). Oxidizing agents cause other ingredients to be potentially carcinogenic. Oxidizing agents destroy both mitochondria and cause carcinogenic free radicals. (3,4,5,6)

As we all know there is an overabundance of preservatives and Omega 6s in most pet foods.

Oxidizing agents cause molecules in food substances to lose electrons. When this occurs, the nutrients from those molecules cannot be properly absorbed in their naturally occurring, original form.

As we see in this chart ( Vitamin K is sensitive to “light,” “oxidizing agents,” and Alkalines. Any food exposed to light for periods of time will cause Vitamin K to degrade. Oxidizing agents cause Vitamin K to degrade. A diet too high in alkaline ingredients, or an alkaline bodily system will cause Vitamin K to degrade. So then, all of this known why is alfalfa really good to include in your bird’s diet, if not to supply an integral and abundance of naturally occurring Vitamin K? Vitamin D.(7) Alfalfa is better for the support of Vitamin D whereas there are many other ingredients more abundant in Vitamin K and more proficient in supplying Vitamin K. It’s just those “other” ingredients are more expensive than alfalfa in regards to supplying Vitamin K. The bottom line? Most commercial manufacturers will use the most economical ingredients available in their diets all to create a higher profit margin.

In regards to Vitamin D, unfortunately, it also degrades. It degrades in the presence of acidic foods, i.e. grains in general, highly processed foods (pellets), heat, oxygen, humidity, and light. The key to preserving Vitamin D in foods is to remove the humidity without using heat and ensure the food is stored in a package where oxygen is low (zip lock pkg – expelling air before re-sealing).

Vitamin D, similar to Vitamin K can also be “altered” in the presence of LDL (low-density lipoproteins otherwise known as “lousy” dietary fat such as a diet too high in Omega 6s (inflammatory omegas). Once oxidized LDL foods such as highly processed vegetable oils (see #3 above), grains (rice, wheat, oats, quinoa, amaranth), legumes, some seeds, and some nuts contribute to Vitamin D degradation. This is why it is VITAL we feed raw (gentle dehydration is considered “raw” because this method of processing foods does not use heat over 115 degrees F when done properly) foods to our birds. Oxidation most often occurs from highly processing these ingredients. All of this said, Vitamin K seems to have more “antagonizing agents” causing degradation than Vitamin D.

So, does “heat” play a role in the degradation of fat-soluble vitamins?Not directly, but indirectly yes.If oil-soluble vitamins are mixed with ingredients that have been highly processed using heat, mechanical extrusion, the high-pressure formation of kibble then, yes heat plays a role. How? As I attempted to explain above Omega 6s when processed in any of the above high-processed manners during manufacturing (causing oxidation and thus free radicals), then mixed with oil-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and/or K the integrity of these vitamins can quickly degrade becoming unstable leading to illnesses. Cardiovascular disease, liver disease, kidney disease, soft tissue damage and more have been associated with free radical oxidation caused by extreme processing methods. Also, if the ratio of fat-soluble vitamins is not correct, especially in the case of piggy-backing these vitamins in their synthetic form into a recipe and mixed with heat/extruded/pressed ingredients, then they can become quite dangerous to health.
My suggestion and advice to those looking to ensure their pet’s food doesn’t contain oxidizing agents? Read “how” their pet’s food is produced, using heat below 115 degrees F, and if vitamins used are naturally occurring in the food or added as synthetic vitamins that can be stored in the liver. Also check to ensure the right kind of various dietary fats is contained in the food, in the proper ratio to one another.All of us should ask the manufacturer for a guaranteed analysis (GA) first and foremost – this is an analysis that is required by law on pet food labeling. It is also wise to ask for specific levels of nutrients and forms used, i.e. naturally occurring or synthetic. The manufacturer is not required by law to supply the levels of specific amino acids (protein), lipids (fat), carbohydrates (sugars, starches), vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in either single analysis of each nutrient or complete analysis of all nutrients. However, if the manufacturer is not willing to supply the analysis of at least one or two nutrients I would caution “buyer beware.”

Finally, touting that “alfalfa” has been added to a recipe to raise the level of Vitamin K” is not reason enough for me to believe the honesty and integrity of the manufacturer. Alfalfa provides 110%DV of Vitamin K compared to Parsley providing 574%DV based on a 2000 calorie per day diet for humans. (DV is the actual amount of a nutrient that a body is actually receiving from a particular ingredient contained in a specific food or overall diet)(8, 9) Whereas alfalfa provides quantifiable amounts of Vitamin D and there is no quantifiable amount of Vitamin D in parsley. (10) (This is why Origins Wild Diets use both alfalfa and parsley in our diets; alfalfa as a source of naturally occurring Vitamin D and parsley as a source of naturally occurring Vitamin K – in proper ratio). Vitamin K is required in much lesser quantities than Vitamin D as a nutrition source contained within a food diet for birds. There are many other sources of Vitamin K that are much higher in this nutrient with parsleybeing one of the best sources of Vitamin K.Dandelion is also good. Again, I would use alfalfa as a food source for Vitamin D due to the fact most food sources contain no Vitamin D at all, and our birds who live primarily in our homes are not exposed to enough sunshine to synthesize Vitamin D intrinsically. Furthermore, as mentioned above, naturally occurring Vitamin K seems to degrade easier and faster, but this fact alone should not call for added synthetic Vitamin K in a diet. As stated, synthetic fat-soluble vitamins may potentially be over-absorbed by the liver leading to extreme health problems. Finally, extraneous processing methods degrade Vitamin K moreover than Vitamin D. My suspicion is that additional synthetic Vitamin K (menadione, K3) will be added along with alfalfa to increase the total, overall level of “Vitamin K” in this manufacturer’s complete nutrient analysis. But you will never know if you don’t ask for the complete Vitamin K (K1, K2, and K3) lab-tested analysis of the diet.

Ingredients listed in one of the referenced commercial bird food manufacturers who is now adding alfalfa to their foods: “Ground Corn, Ground Wheat, Peanut Meal, Soy Oil,Soy Meal, Hydrated Sodium Calcium Aluminosilicate, Yucca schidigen Extract,Salt, Calcium Carbonate, L-Lysine, DL-Methionine, Mixed Tocopherols, Rosemary Extract, Ascorbic Acid, Citric Acid, Lecithin, Silicon Dioxide (carrier for liquid antioxidants), Sodium Selenite (on Calcium Carbonate), Niacin, Alpha-Tocopherol Acetate (Source of Vitamin E), Biotin, Manganese Sulfate, Calcium Pantothenate, Zinc Oxide, Riboflavin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vit. A-Acetate, Thiamine,Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Vit K), Cyanocobalamin (VitB12), Vit D3 Sup. Folic Acid, Ethylenediamine Dihydriodide, Propionic Acid, Ammonium Hydroxide, Acetic Acid, Sorbic Acid, Tartaric Acid, and natural apple flavoring.” -As we can clearly see this ingredient list is very high in foods that increase oxidated Omega 6s, potentially hydrogenated oils, synthetic vitamins including, but not limited to synthetic Vitamin K (menadione, K3).

*This manufacturer referenced doesn’t supply ingredient listing on their own website, which is illegal in the U.S. -Instead it is up to each of their distributors to supply the ingredient listings of this company’s diets. Beware!

Please don’t buy into the “hype” of any one ingredient and why a manufacturer states the reason for adding it to their recipe. Take into consideration “HOW” food is processed, what that processing does or doesn’t do to the individual ingredients, the “other” ingredients in the food and how those ingredients may have been processed before they were added to the total ingredient list. Research to find if the ratio of ingredients and nutrients are in proper relation to other nutrients necessary for total and proper absorption and metabolism of each necessary nutrient.

Happy, healthy and safe foraging!

Ref: (1); (2); (3); (4) (5); (6); (7); (8); (9); (10)

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