Kelp Naturally Supports Immune Health
13 April 2020
Humans have been consuming kelp for thousands of years, and more recently, pet food companies have begun providing this healthy ingredient to our beloved pets. Kelp and sea plants have played a critical role in nutrition and medicine across the world. Technically speaking, kelp and seaweed are different species, each with their own benefits.
The world of algae, kelp and seaweed can be quite confusing.
Microalgae is the algae found floating throughout the water or on surfaces, as frequently seen in the inside of fish tanks. Microalgae are commonly used as a source of protein, DHA or as a colorant for foods.
Generally speaking, kelp and seaweed are macroalgae plants that anchor themselves along the shores and reach toward the sunlight at the surface as they float with the tides. Macroalgae do not contribute a significant amount of protein or DHA to the diet but rather are used for their unique nutritional components and their fibrous support structure.
Seaweed, such as Ascophyllum nodosum, is a large brown-algae that grows on rocks and endures a very stressful life. This species of seaweed spends half its time submerged in the waters at high tide and the other half baking in the sun at low tide. Because of this unique stress, Mother Nature has provided the plant with protective molecules that support its life through the stress. When harvested and gently dried, these protective molecules can be transferred to pets and act as immune support molecules and unique prebiotic-like fibers for gut health. It has been shown that by feeding seaweed, such as Tasco®, a pure Ascophyllum nodosum product, animals have enhanced gut integrity and immune function, leading to a healthier life.
In addition to the gut health benefits, kelp and seaweed can provide other essential minerals for animals. For example, when fed at the recommended inclusion rate of 0.25-0.5% of the diet, the entire iodine requirement for the animal can be met without the addition of synthetic iodine, such as EDDI. This gives pet parents the peace of mind knowing they are providing a stable natural solution. Keep in mind that iodine has an upper limit in pet food formulation and too much of a good thing can quickly turn bad. It is important to validate the consistency of the iodine in the product to ensure the proper level is delivered.
Beyond their nutritional value, sea plants play a crucial role in the oceanic ecosystem by converting oxygen and providing shelter for countless other species. As human populations and the popularity of kelp continue to increase, a sustainable balance in the harvest process must be achieved. Over-harvesting can lead to devastation of the kelp beds along parts of the coast in South America and Asia, while others, such as in Canada and Iceland, closely monitor and regulate the harvest of kelp to ensure supply for years to come.
When looking at the supply chain, it is imperative to work with companies that take sustainability seriously. For example, Acadian Seaplants in Canada only uses hand harvesting to minimize damage and will only harvest beds once a year to ensure regrowth.
Overall, kelp and seaweed can give pet food companies a sustainable, cost-effective way to differentiate their brand and add significant benefit to the pets we all serve.
To learn more about kelp and why not all kelp is created equally, please read this Trouw Pet Nutrition Outlook.