Fiber foods

Avocado waste could provide a source of fiber for dogs

When avocados were first recognized as a nutrient-dense superfood for humans, their consumption skyrocketed. Today, consumers buy and eat the fresh fruit (hello, avocado toast), buy prepackaged guacamole, cook with avocado oil, and more.

This trend means that there are now more avocado products in the supply chain than ever before. In a unique study, researchers at the University of Illinois examined the possibility of using avocado flour – the crushed, dried and defatted pulp, seeds and skin that remain after processing the oil avocado – as a source of fiber in dry dog ​​food.

Wait, aren’t avocados toxic to dogs?

A simple Google search reveals heaps of sources warning of the potentially harmful effects of avocados for pets, blaming a compound called persin in the fruit. But Maria Cattai de Godoy, who led the project, says claims about avocado toxicity are overblown. As for avocado flour, Godoy could not find detectable levels of persin in the product. And best of all? Avocado flour is also palatable and a source of functional fiber in canine diets.

“Being from Brazil, avocados grow in our backyards. They fall to the ground, and if the dogs grab them, they eat them. Just like they do with mangoes, bananas or any other fruit that grows natively in our country. I had never heard of a dog dying after eating an avocado, so I was really curious as to why they were considered poisonous here,” says Cattai de Godoy, associate professor in the Department of Animal Science at the U of I.

“When you look at the literature on avocado toxicity, all that exists are a few case studies. Dogs reported to have a fondness for avocado have shown signs of toxicity, but case reports don “We couldn’t prove that the lawyers caused these symptoms. There are a lot of uncontrolled factors in these cases.

When she looked into the matter, Cattai de Godoy could not find direct evidence showing the cause and effect of persin toxicity in dogs. Few studies have detailed where persin is most concentrated in avocado plants and fruits, and not a single study has explored whether it is found in avocado flour.

It was time for some answers.

Cattai de Godoy teamed up with David Sarlah, an associate professor in the U of I Department of Chemistry. They were able to take a closer look at the chemical structure of persin and figure out why they couldn’t find it in the meal. dried and processed. .

“Persin is structurally similar to a polyunsaturated fatty acid, which means there are a lot of double bonds,” says Cattai de Godoy. “They are not very stable; heat and light can cause them to degrade. The processing most likely breaks down the persin, which is probably why we can’t see it in the meal.

“In fact, the concentration was so low in the avocado flour that it was outside our linear standard curve range, meaning it was below the detection level. We did, however, observe detectable amounts of persin in raw fruit, including skin, pulp and pit.

After determining that persin was undetectable in avocado meal, researchers fed it to beagles as one of three sources of fiber in their diet: avocado meal or standard beet pulp or cellulose. They watched the animals closely for any signs of toxicity or distress, but found none during the two-week feeding trials.

Cellulose is an insoluble fiber used to create fecal bulk. Beet pulp, which Godoy’s Cattai calls the go-to fiber in pet food, is a blend of soluble and insoluble fiber that helps feed good gut bacteria while promoting fecal mass.

As a source of fiber, avocado flour falls just between cellulose and beet pulp, according to the parameters studied by the researchers. For example, energy intake was similar for all three diets, and avocado flour was related to other fiber sources for fat and organic matter digestibility. Dogs that ate the avocado meal diet had similar fiber digestibility and concentration of fecal butyrate, an energy source for microbial cells in the gut, to dogs that ate the pulp diet. of beets.

“High-fiber diets aren’t always acceptable for pets, but that’s not what we’ve seen. Dogs consumed enough food to meet or exceed their energy needs. The high inclusion of flour avocado [about 19%] was acceptable to them,” says Cattai of Godoy.

The researchers note that they only tested one source of avocado flour. Persin levels vary between avocado cultivars and processing practices have not been standardized in the industry, so it will be important to test for persin in each source of avocado flour. But Godoy’s Cattai thinks this first study shows the potential of avocado meal for dogs.

“If you have a tool that no one has looked at and it is cheap and very abundant, why not use it? From what we can tell, it appears to be a safe ingredient. We don’t see a signal for persin in avocado flour, and there really isn’t any solid literature indicating that persin is a real toxin for dogs or cats,” she says. “I certainly think there is still work to be done to say that there are no worries, especially if we gave the fresh fruit away. But based on our study, I think avocado flour is a safe bet and can be used effectively as a sole source of dietary fiber or in fiber blends.

Reference: Dainton AN, He F, Bingham TW, et al. Nutritional and physico-chemical implications of avocado meal as a new source of dietary fiber in an extruded canine diet. J Anim Sci. 2022;100(2):skac026. do I:10.1093/jas/skac026

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