Synthetic Bird Feeds: Do They Promote Health or Disease?


A n apple is an apple is an apple, but is a nutrient, a nutrient a nutrient???

Today, a bird owner can go to any bird or pet shop in town and purchase a dry convenience diet out of a bag or canister. It is that easy.The majority of bird owners feed these diets to their birds either as a portion of the diet or as a total diet on a daily basis. The sad part of this is that bird owners are taught to believe that this is the proper diet to feed their birds and that these diets are actually superior to a diet made up of natural whole foods. Gasp!

Why is it that nutritionists and medical doctors are currently recommending that humans include more fruits (2- 4 servings) and vegetables (3-5 servings) in their daily diet to preserve health and prevent disease, yet most veterinarians are telling their bird-owning clients to feed more pellets to do the same?

feeding pellets that contain all of the essential nutrients will provide your bird with "everything" it needs to maintain health. It sounds like a good idea in theory. After all, it L5 "complete nutrition" in a bag. Right? What a cool concept. Each and every bite your bird consumes will contain all the nutrients it needs, except the pans that crumble to the floor. Oops'

Think about it carefully. Can feeding your birds with this "complete nutrition" really fulfill all of your birds' needs? I'm sure those of you who hate to cook or to prepare meals hope with all your might that it is true.

Well, two large studies performed by the National Cancer Institute designed to prove the worth of beta carotene supplements have shown that isolated nutrients do not always control disease or offer any health benefits (Time, "Medicine," January 29,1996). In fact, they were shown in some cases to make a condition such 

as cancer or heart disease worse, not better.

Another study published in the New England journal of Medicine (Spring 1994) researchers concluded that synthetic vitamin E and beta carotene did not improve the health of those who experienced a stroke, lung cancer and other diseases.

Clearly, taking a simple isolated chemical supplement is not the same as eating a vegetable and a variety of


other fresh whole foods. Scientists know that there are other natural ingredients that work with vitamins to promote health, such as is the case with vitamin C and bioflavonoids. They work synergistically for the optimum health results, not only to prevent disease, but also to cure it.

Many of you will find this hard to believe, but ascorbic acid is not vitamin C, although to simplify things the literature does refer to it as such. Instead, vitamin C in its complexity is mainly composed of tyrosinase (which supplies organic copper), bioflavonoids, and ascorbic acid (the antioxidant portion that protects the other two from


spoilage). In fact, tyrosinase is the active ingredient of vitamin C. The tyrosinase in vitamin C converts tyrosine to thyroid and adrenal hormones.

In an effort to make products quickly, inexpensively, and in great quantities, scientists continue to isolate what they believe is the active ingredient of nutritional complexes, copy them in mirror images of crystalline pure chemicals and mass-produce them as "foods" or nutritional supplements. An overdose of vitamin C or any isolated nutrient for that matter can weaken your system because without its synergistic parts to work efficiently and effectively it must drain the body's own supplies.

If your bird's body were mildly deficient in copper, too much ascorbic acid could create a copper deficiency, which can negatively affect the immune system. If you will take a closer look at synthetic nutrients, you will see their failure to aid in optimum health and, in some disease states, see a worsening of symptoms.

So offering your birds a pelleted diet is similar to taking a bottle of synthetic multi-vitamins and grinding the pills up in a blender and pouring it into your birds' food bowl each day. How long would you suspect that your bird would remain healthy if you did this every day?

Well, I suspect each bird would react differently depending on its individual biochemistry and constitution, but I certainly wouldn't expect my birds to live nearly as long and would also suspect that they may be getting more than enough of some nutrients and not enough of others. Consequently, disease, infection and perhaps malnutrition would not be too far away.

Rats and other laboratory animals are fed a diet similar to a pelleted diet, but they are not expected to live a long enough life for it to matter much what they eat. I often refer to a pelleted diet as a fabricated diet, a lab diet, or a processed diet. These terms do not sound appetizing to me. How about you?