Taurine and the FDA – are we missing the point?

2nd July 2019
Beryl Shuttleworth
No Responses

The FDA has released further findings around the grain free dog food investigation. They’ve actually now named brands, which has caused mixed and hugely confusing reactions by both concerned dog owners and food companies.

A quick summary to date: The FDA started to investigate a string of DCM (heart disease) cases in dogs previously not genetically disposed to the disease. They found that many of these dogs were fed grain free foods where potatoes, peas, lentils or other legumes were listed as one of the main ingredients.

I’m not going to go into the various conspiracy theories and conjectures. Instead, I want to pull out 3 facts from the report which interested me:

  1. Most cases(91%) were fed grain free dry food.
  2. When various brands of grain containing and grain free foods were assayed for protein, fat, moisture, various fibres and starches, cysteine, methionine and taurine content, the results were very similar.
  3. Blood taurine levels in the dogs were low in 42% of cases.
  4. This problem has only occured in the last few years.

My thoughts:

  1. 91% is a very high percentage, in any scientific result. This shows that the problem must indeed be a grain free dog food problem.
  2. Taurine is not considered an essential amino acid for dogs, because they can make it from cysteine and methionine. Cysteine, methionine and taurine content across all of the foods tested were similar.

Two alternative scenarios might exist. Firstly, if the DCM is indeed caused by low taurine levels (and I think it is, as taurine supplementation fixes it), one needs to ask why the levels are low in grain free fed dogs and not low in dogs on grain containing foods. Is it perhaps npt another problem, possible caused or exascerbated by legumes? Bioavailability – does something in legumes block the taurine from working? Excretion – is the taurine excreted too fast? Biosynthesis – is its synthesis blocked in some way?

Then again, something else completely might be contributing to the problem. Perhaps the DCM is related to carnitine as well? Low carnitine also causes DCM. Also, besides the link to genes, carnitine and taurine, the actual cause of DCM is still unknown.

Either way, I bet those FDA researchers are sweating over their energy drinks (ha ha ;-)) right now. Science is so much more enjoyable when there is an easy answer.

References:

https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/news-events/fda-investigation-potential-link-between-certain-diets-and-canine-dilated-cardiomyopathy

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0209112

https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/science-research/vet-lirn-update-investigation-dilated-cardiomyopathy

https://truthaboutpetfood.com/some-fda-answers-regarding-investigation-into-a-possible-connection-between-diet-and-canine-heart-disease/

https://www.onlynaturalpet.com/holistic-healthcare-library/food-diet—general/255/taurine-dog-food-and-heart-disease-in-dogs.aspx

http://www.howltothechief.com/single-post/2018/07/24/The-Great-Grain-Free-Taurine-Debate

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