The study of the importance of trace minerals (metals) in animal and pet nutrition has been an ongoing process for nearly a century, but biochemical, and especially nutritional knowledge, has lagged far behind the macronutrients such as protein, amino acids, carbohydrates and lipids. The extremely small quantities of trace metals found in pet tissues and fluids compared with macronutrients may be the reason for the general lack of respect for their biological impact. It is an error to assume that trace quantities of transition metals and selenium are less important biologically than macronutrients.
The transition metals manganese (Mn), iron (Fe), copper (Cu) and zinc (Zn) and the non-metal selenium (Se) are associated either structurally, catalytically or functionally with nearly every protein and biochemical process. Zinc, for example, is affiliated with more than 3,000 proteins in the body and the very important processes of gas exchange, DNA transcription, redox, pH homeostasis and cell signaling. Essential trace metals are required in very small quantities and, because of their aggressive chemical nature, even small deviations in cellular content can result in dysfunction, disease and even death.
Our pets have a wide range of metal requirements and it is a bonus for formulators to be able to utilize a mineral that cooperates with the needs of the pet. Strongly chelated minerals like Optimins have the ability to synchronize the absorption of the metal with the needs of the pet. We refer to this process as "up and down regulation" and it improves the probability of nutritional success.
Metal proteinates (or chelates) and amino acid complexes that are resistant to pH and redox fluctuations are well suited for pet diets. Mother Nature discovered the property of chelation and uses this mechanism in animals during digestion and in plants during their acquistion of metals from soils (Table 1, contains a simplified comparison). The similarity between how plants and animals gain access to metals is striking and it is tempting to speculate that this is a general scheme in biology.
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