Did you know that most dry pet foods - even the natural, holistic, premium, grain-free and organic brands - contain vitamin and mineral “pre-mix” made from synthetic compounds that are almost all produced in overseas factories? Why? Because the natural nutrients found in real food ingredients are destroyed by high heat processing methods, so the vitamin/mineral pre-mix must be added back in so that the food can meet AAFCO standards and be sold as “complete and balanced”.
Carna4 and Nature’s Logic are the only brands of dry food that we know of that do not contain any synthetic vitamins.
So why does this matter? It matters because an individual vitamin or mineral that has been chemically isolated in a laboratory has a different physical structure than its whole food counterpart. Synthetic vitamins aren’t as effective as real vitamins; are not as easily absorbed or utilized by your pet’s body; they don’t last as long in the body; and they can mess things up when used with other synthetic vitamins. For example, in 2018 there was a large recall of many pet food brands that contained toxic levels of Vitamin D.
Vitamins don’t exist as isolated compounds in nature. They work together with all the other micro-nutrients – like minerals, enzymes, and amino acids – that are present in real food. When a nutrient or vitamin is isolated out of its natural environment – food -- it becomes a chemical isolate. Trying to absorb isolated vitamin compounds is a little like trying to get across town on a wheel that has been removed from your car: it doesn’t work unless it is attached to all the other parts of the car.
Nutrients that remain in their whole food environments are more stable and tend to outlive their lab-made counterparts. For example, naturally-occurring probiotics are much stronger and healthier while they are in their native host (the sprouted seed for example), surrounded by prebiotics and the thousands of other microbes that play a supporting role in their function. This makes them much more stable and able to withstand the short cycle of heat applied during the production process. In contrast, artificially-cultured probiotics, like those used in most pet foods, are very unstable and quickly lose their potency.
Similarly, up to 90% of synthetic vitamins are destroyed during application of extreme heat, pressure and steam in the extrusion processes used in conventional pet food manufacturing. Even if isolated vitamins are applied after extrusion, they continue to be lost at rates of up to 30% per month in their chemically-altered form. Common pet food antioxidants like the synthetic versions of Vitamins E and C can be used up at similarly high rates.
This is quite different from the natural vitamins occurring in whole food which remain healthy and abundant for many months after they are combined with other foods in the final product. Pet food that is minimally processed - like gently cooked, freeze-dried or fresh frozen raw - retains the natural vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids and other nutrients present in the raw ingredients so there is no need to add extra.
Studies show that synthetic vitamins don’t behave in the body like the real ones do. Their actions are either incomplete or may actually be harmful. There are certainly situations where synthetic vitamins are necessary, and of course synthetic vitamins are better than no vitamins at all. But the best way to get the vitamins, minerals and the complete nutrition required for good health is from fresh, whole food – and this is true for both humans and their dogs and cats.