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InFocus

Neutralising the excess free radicals

Ian Williams in this fourth in a series of columns from Royal Canin focusing on the latest knowledge behind nutrients that can be of benefit to cats and dogs, looks at antioxidants...

AS an animal goes about its day-to-
day functions, free radicals (or
“reactive oxygen species”) are
produced. These are the by-products
created within all the cells in the
body during metabolism.

The problem with having high levels
of free radicals in the body is that they
are highly reactive. The reactions are a
normal part of life and the body’s
metabolism, but the effects can
accumulate as animals grow older.

Antioxidants are health nutrients
which can help to neutralise and “mop
up” excess
free radicals,
as they are
able to take
part in a
reaction with
the free
radicals,
meaning that
the free
radicals are then less able to react with
cells in the body.

The body is armed with enzyme
mechanisms (superoxide dismutase,
glutathione peroxidase and catalase) and
endogenous and dietary antioxidant substances; however, these are in a
limited supply and depend on a regular
supply of particular nutrients from the
diet.

Antioxidants (including vitamins and
certain enzymes) are found in various
fruits (oranges, lemons, tomatoes and
grapes), cereals and green tea leaves.
The most commonly used antioxidants
are vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoid
pigments (including lutein), taurine and
polyphenols.

Royal Canin’s diets for cats and dogs
contain antioxidants including vitamins C and E, lutein and taurine. Vitamin C
helps to support the body’s natural
defences and tissue development.
Vitamin E is sourced from plants and
vegetables, and works to help support
cells.

Lutein, which is naturally sourced
from marigold extract, helps to maintain
healthy vision and also supports the
body’s natural defences. Finally, taurine
is essential to help maintain healthy
muscles, the nervous system and eyes.

The use of these four antioxidants
together allows them to work
synergistically, meaning that when
combined they work together to
neutralise excess free radicals more
successfully than if they were used
separately.

Dietary antioxidants like these
contribute to the body’s natural
defences, helping to maintain cell
function with age and helping to
support health during periods of
oxidative stress. There are lots of
situations which can lead to oxidative
stress including high levels of exercise,
illness and stress.

In young animals, diets are often
formulated to support their natural
defences as they develop during the
delicate growth period. When they are
first born, puppies and kittens rely
entirely on the protection they receive
from their mother’s milk but, over time,
this protection starts to fade. This means they are left vulnerable,
particularly between 4-12 weeks, until
their own defences start to form.

So it is important that puppies and
kittens are supported during this period
through the addition of antioxidants.
Feeding a diet supplemented with
antioxidants to an older pet can also
help to support their natural defences
and maintain vitality.

In summary, the use of dietary
antioxidants can be of benefit to both
young and old pets and they are now
commonly incorporated into both
lifestage and clinical diets.
n For further reading please visit:
vetportal.royalcanin.co.uk.

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