“Fido“ Nutrients: Plant derived extracts and syrups as a source of phytonutrients and other antioxidants which may reduce chronic disease in pets

This presentation will provide an overview of the antioxidant theory as it applies to chronic disease in pets, review past and new quantitative and qualitative data on antioxidants in natural syrups such as malt extracts and molasses, review the latest findings on the in-vitro and in-vivo antioxidant capacity of malt extract and molasses antioxidants, and provide a summary of the potential health effects of using unrefined natural syrups in pet food formulations as compared to other materials.

Summary of Key Points

(1) The prevalence of obesity and chronic disease is increasing in both pets and their owners. There is increased awareness that dietary phytonutrients and related compounds play a role in the prevention of chronic disease.

(2) Consumers are selecting grain free foods for their pets, however grains and other plant based ingredients are sources of phytonutrients.

(3) Unrefined syrups derived from grain and other plant sources, such as malt syrup and molasses, are rich in antioxidants such as phenolic acids and Maillard reaction products that provide protective benefits against reactive oxygen species (ROS).


There is growing interest in research investigating the role antioxidant phytonutrients and Maillard reaction products (MRP) have on the long term health of companion animals. Much of the research on antioxidant phytonutrients to date has focused on human health, however many of the concepts regarding their protective benefits might be applied to other species. Currently there is scant research focused on the health implications of phytonutrients on companion animals. Pet foods have been formulated to deliver nutrients required by the animal but it is becoming recognized by nutrition experts that the importance of “non-essential” phytonutrients and MRP may be greater than anticipated in the prevention of chronic diseases that are concerning to pet owners, such as obesity, diabetes, and cancer. Consumers have taken and interest in grain-free or low carbohydrate foods to address these issues. However, phytonutrients and MRP that may play a role in chronic disease prevention can be found in grains and other grain derived ingredient sources such as malt extracts and molasses. These materials may also have the potential to be used as replacements for synthetic antioxidants for the stabilization of lipids in pet food and feed, a potentially new idea.

Antioxidants are compounds that provide a protective function from damage caused by reactive oxygen species (ROS), or free radicals. ROS are thought responsible for initiating some chronic diseases by inflicting oxidative damage on cellular components. Because of the association of adiposity and increased oxidative stress, the increase in obesity among companion animals is concerning. Oxidative damage to cellular components may lead to chronic inflammation that manifests itself as cardiovascular disease, cancer and neurodegeneration.

Malt extract and other plant derived materials such as molasses possess meaningful quantities of bioavailable free phenolic compounds that provide protective benefits against reactive oxygen species (ROS). Malt extract has been shown to possess free phenolic levels three-fold higher than in the unmalted barley. Molasses possesses a diverse profile of phenolic compounds present in concentrations of 2.8-3.9 g/L, has been shown to prevent DNA oxidation, and to protect oxidatively stressed human HepG2 cells as effectively as α-tocopherol. Phenolic compounds present in malt increase antioxidant capacity both in vitro and in vivo models, and protected against biological macromolecule damage by free radicals. Kilning malt increases antioxidant capacity, possibly due to the development of MRP antioxidant compounds which are effective synergists with phenolic antioxidants. The conditions of the Maillard reaction will dictate the antioxidant capacity of the finished product, therefore the conditions in which these products are created needs to be understood in order to maximize the antioxidant potential of these products.
Presenter Biography

Jeff Casper is technical director and owner of Mill City Food Solutions, a consulting agency that specializes in grain based ingredient and food innovation. Casper holds a master in food science with an emphasis in chemistry from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and a bachelor in food science and technology from Iowa State University. Previously, Casper worked as R&D director at Cargill and R&D manager within Cargill joint venture Horizon Milling, where he led research in grain based ingredients, including research on phytochemical rich grain fractions in pet food and feed. He has presented at several AACCI annual meetings, been author or co-author on several peer reviewed journal articles, and recently co-authored the book “Gluten Free Baked Products” which was published by AACCI press in 2014. Casper has also served on the scientific advisory board of the Grains for Health Foundation is a member of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) and the American Oil Chemists Society (AOCS).