Nutraceuticals

This is a term that only emerged in about 1989. The word is derived from ‘nutrient’ and ‘pharmaceutical’. Many natural compounds and plants could be classed as nutraceuticals because, as is said elsewhere in this web site, there is no clear boundary between nutrition and medicine.

It is in the world of nutraceuticals that the fields of conventional philosophy, vested interest, commercial exploitation, natural medicine and diet overlap. As far as the AVMC is concerned, with some exceptions that are mostly natural substances or plants, in their original form, it is not a comfortable mix and this field does not sit comfortably with our philosophy or practice.

Examples of widely exploited and ruthlessly commercialised materials are chondroitin, glucosamine, MSM and Aloe vera.

The perceived need is mostly illusionary, in that a good diet and properly applied holistic lifestyle would be likely to prevent any such need. Because we live our lives somewhat recklessly and not in harmony with the natural order and because we force our domestic animals to do likewise or worse, disease is rife and we search around for a quick fix and, if possible, a panacea. It is into this slot that the nutraceutical wedge is pushed.

Even when disease happens, a really well-devised, species-suitable natural diet will usually satisfy the need that energetically-marketed nutraceuticals exploit. Discussing some major players in the filed will illustrate some of the anxieties held by the AVMC.

Chondroitin is usually either beef tracheal cartilage or shark fin cartilage. If the patient is a herbivore, e.g. horse, pony, donkey, goat, llama, neither source is suitable and may be dangerous. If the patient is a dog, a meal of ‘lights’ or access to a fresh knuckle bone will do the job as well or better, at a fraction of the cost. A cat would do well with a whole fish. The shark fin (shark cartilage) story is one that casts a shadow over our welfare credentials, as it can involve inhumane (cruel) methods.

Glucosamine and its relatives are anti-inflammatory in action. They are usually made from crustacean shells, and shellfish (molluscs), notably green lipped mussel. Because of massive profitability, this species (Perna canaliculus) is now farmed, with expansion of the industry seeming inevitable. Ecological and environmental considerations may make this farming unsustainable (http://www.doc.govt.nz/upload/documents/science-and-technical/Musselfarms01.pdf). Again, this source is unsuitable for herbivores.

MSM is made in nature but there is no commercially viable process available, to harvest natural MSM. All MSM on the market is synthetically manufactured. Despite the rather misleading ‘natural’ tag, it is a synthetic product. Commercial MSM is made using the reaction between hydrogen peroxide and DMSO. DMSO is made by the reaction of nitrogen tetroxide and oxygen with DMS. DMS is manufactured either by:

  1. making methyl alcohol from natural gas and combining it with hydrogen sulphide or carbon disulphide, in a vapour phase catalytic reaction.
  2. combining sulphur, derived from the petrochemical industry, who must remove as much as possible in the oil-refining process, to make ‘cleaner fuels’, with effluent pulping liquid from a paper mill waste stream.

This process is particularly energy intensive.

This information shows how economical commercial concerns can be with the truth.

MSM is anti-inflammatory but there is a suspicion that it can interfere with homeopathic medication.

Aloe vera is an excellent herbal medicine. However, it has been exploited by commercial concerns and is sold at high prices, contaminated with a range of stabilising and preserving chemicals. It is marketed as a ‘cure-all’ (panacea). If it did all it is ‘supposed’ to do, there would be no need for doctors or vets.

If the patient is a herbivore, beware gelatin capsules containing any medicine or nutraceutical.

This same analytical approach can be applied to any marketed nutraceutical. Some will be found to be naturally-occurring and unadulterated substances, which are therefore beyond criticism. Others have been adulterated to a greater or lesser extent and an equivalent natural wholesome dietary ingredient can do away with any need for such products. This is a lucrative and expanding market, which is vigorously promoted for obvious reasons.

See also: Products, Diets, Feeds, Supplements