As explained in last week’s blog, determinism is the belief that any subject can be best understood by understanding its parts. When determinism is applied to nutrition you get the kind of silly statements that veterinary nutritionists and pet food manufacturers make all the time. These experts will tell you that it is not the ingredients of a pet food that matter but rather it is the nutrients.

Of course, if you believe in the reductionist view that we understand food best by studying its parts, then it does not matter what ingredients provide the calories, protein, and other nutrients. This is the kind of nutrition information that gets spoon fed the veterinary students who become your local pet nutrition experts (your vet). And we all have swallowed it hook, line, and sinker. This belief is also what justifies the poor ingredients in the foods veterinarians often recommend.

Such ingredients as “Whole Grain Corn, Corn Gluten Meal, Whole Grain Wheat, and Brewers Rice” are among the first listed in one feline prescription diet. Now, grains and starches of any kind are not appropriate for pets – especially cats, which are known to be obligate carnivores.  And, the protein provided by grains is of poor quality (inappropriate amino acid profile and inadequate absorption).

The notion that nutrients rule is refuted in this research published in the journal, Nutrition Reviews. The title of this article says it all; Food, Not Nutrients, is the Fundamental Unit in Nutrition. Here is what the researchers have to say.

It seems a good assumption that the vast majority of components of plant and animal-based food is functional, that it has some kind of biological activity…there are thousands of other substances [besides vitamins and minerals] in the food matrix that must be considered as possibly leading to biological activity, possibly synergistically with each other, that in some sense could equally be deemed essential for life because they are not produced by nor do they augment human biological systems.”

Between the number of nutrients in food and the way the body selectively absorbs and utilizes them, nutrition is much more complicated than the veterinary nutritionists and pet food manufacturers lead us to believe. I will write more on that next week along with the solution to the nutrition problem.

Read your pet’s food ingredient label and let us know what questionable things you find.

7 replies
  1. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    My well meaning vet just told me to take my pets off organic, grain-free, meats first pet foods, and put on standard Science Diet, Iams, etc. I knew these were not great, but wanted to find websites supporting, and found this:

    Best Dog Food
    It’s All About Quality Ingredients: Best Food for a Safe and Healthy Dog Latest UpdateJuly 14, 2015

  2. Linda
    Linda says:

    As hard as I tried, I was unable to find any questionable ingredients in my pet’s species, appropriate raw food.
    Seriously, I heard the “It’s not the ingredients, but the nutrition.” line from a Veterinary Nutritionist 7years ago when I questioned the ingredients in prescription pet food. It didn’t ring true to me then, even though I was SO uneducated about pet nutrition. Thank goodness I followed my gut and never fed any of it and instead, found a pet nutritionist who believed in high quality ingredients.

  3. JP
    JP says:

    Commercial Rat food. “Natural Flavor,” “Yeast Culture,” and “Hydrolyzed Yeast” – all other names for MSG. And of course this food needs MSG to be palatable, considering it is made up of third-rate grain and legume leavings, “fishmeal,” and the crappiest oil of all, canola. Then it simply has a bunch of supplements added to make it “nutritious.” Kind of like adding a vitamin pill to a pile of sawdust and calling it a nutritious meal.

  4. Shanin
    Shanin says:

    We are in the middle of changing our dogs food. We have a 4 year old bernese mountain dog would had liver shunt surgery at 7 months of age and it worked however his liver then produced a handful of smaller shunts 🙁 so he has been on prescription hepatic food since. His labs were all sent to U of Florida vet depth to find out what was best food to feed this giant dog who can’t have protein. And that’s what they came up with. I followed along for years but questioning every so often if it truly was best thing. Always bugged me it’s full of soy and brewers yeast. Tho he shows no adverse signs of being on it I truly don’t like the ingredients. So we are researching 2 different lines of food with lower protein values and are going to give them a go and keep up his milk thistle and occasional dandelion supplements to help his liver. Dog food is such a rat race and so many people buy cause of nice packaging and pictures. Is crazy. Thanks for this article.

    • Dr. Doug
      Dr. Doug says:

      Shanin, you have a unique situation there. If you change foods be on the lookout for any behavioral/neurological changes within a few hours of eating. You may do well to consult a veterinary nutritionist who can come up with a home made diet you can make if you are into that. I would suggest Dr. Donna Raditic – University of Tennessee Veterinary Nutrition Service: email
      consultations through


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