Pet food Raw Materials Specialist @Purina
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Sugars, such as glucose, fructose, lactose, maltose and others, are groups of carbohydrates, which are a key macronutrient, along with protein and fat. Despite the negative attention due to trends in human nutrition, sugars in moderation can serve important functions in pet foods. They are naturally found in many fruits, vegetables and dairy products. Small amounts of sugars in pet foods can provide a source of energy, improve palatability and help ensure a product retains its texture and softness throughout its shelf life. It is excessive caloric intake through all food groups, not sugar or carbohydrate specifically, that is a primary risk factor for obesity in cats and dogs.
The majority of carbohydrates in complete and balanced pet foods come from “complex” carbohydrates” (e.g.: cereals, potato and certain leguminous plants). When found in pet foods, simple sugars (like sucrose, dextrose, fructose, etc.) comprise a very small percentage of the total metabolizable energy of the diet.
Some of them play an important role in pets’ nutrition. Glucose, for example, is the primary source of energy for the body’s cells, while lactose is critical for early development. Both dogs and cats are capable of metabolizing and utilizing the dietary sugars contained in pet foods. Small amounts of sugars can improve the flavour of pet foods. For example, they are used to create natural aromas such as “roasted” or “grilled” when combined with other ingredients during the cooking process. Other functions of sugars in pet foods are increasing shelf life of the products, providing visually appealing colour or improving texture and product softness.
The term "various sugars" that appears on pet food labels is a category description, which may refer to different sugars (e.g. sucrose, fructose, glucose among others). It has to be used always in plural (“sugars”) even if the recipe contains only one type of sugar.
Many people associate sugar in pet foods as the cause of obesity. However, one of the main risk factors for obesity in dogs and cats is excessive caloric intake. Gram for gram, sugars have fewer calories than fat or protein. Obesity, not dietary sugar, is the main risk factor for diabetes mellitus in dogs and cats. The key is to maintain ideal body condition and limit food items that are not complete and balanced to less than 10% of the pet’s total caloric intake.