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Bringing Back the Magic: A Transformational Memior
Refined Sugar: Is It In Your Bird’s Diet?
By Alicia McWatters, Ph.D.C.N.C.
Have you looked at your bird food package or canister lately? Do you see sucrose, corn sugar or corn syrup listed as an ingredient on the package or canister? If you do, then you are feeding your bird a diet that contains refined sugar. Now, you may wonder, what is the big deal about refined sugar? Is it harmful to my bird? YES! The answer to your question is an unequivocal YES! Refined sugar is not healthy for your bird, and in fact, it can be detrimental to not only its physical health, but also its mental and emotional health.

Read on to learn why...

Refined sugar is a sugar that has been heavily processed and stripped of nutrients. Therefore, it does not contain the nutrients that are needed for its metabolism. Subsequently, these nutrients are taken from the body in order to metabolize this foreign substance properly. If the label on a bird food container or bag lists sugar among its first four ingredients, you can expect this food product to contain a substantial amount of sugar. The ingredients on food products are measured by weight and listed in order of weight, from highest to lowest.

Refined sugar can cause subclinical deficiencies and future health problems and illness. The immune system and other systems of the body, such as the digestive system, endocrine system and nervous system are negatively affected. More specifically, sugar may promote infections, such as Candida albicans or may result in the manifestation of diabetes, gout, heart damage, hyperactivity and nervous disorders, feather-picking, obesity, cancer, calcium/phosphorus imbalance, high cholesterol levels, depression, irritability, anxiety and more.

The immune system can be weakened by the consumption of sugar. The white blood cells are adversely affected by excessive quantities of sugar in the blood. The process of phagocytosis is reduced. A high level of sugar in the diet can cause the digestive system to over work in order to prevent the sugar from entering the bloodstream too quickly. The pancreas, an endocrine system organ, is also over worked in order to produce enough insulin for the sugar to be processed properly. Sugar affects the brain’s biochemistry and can cause nervousness and stress. Obesity may result from a diet high in refined sugar, as it is high in calories. One teaspoon of sucrose= 16 calories! One teaspoon of corn syrup=20 calories!!!

Experts in the field of nutrition classify two types of sugar: natural sugar which can be found in foods such as fruits and sweet vegetables and extraneous sugar that is added to foods during preparation or processing. All plants and animals store sugar for energy. The sugars our birds are biologically adapted to come from natural substances produced by photosynthesis in plants.

The main sugars used in bird food manufacturing are a liquid made from corn or a white sugar called sucrose. Corn syrup and corn sugar, also called dextrose or glucose, are popular because their sweetness and thickness can be regulated. They also prevent moisture loss and extend shelf-life of the food. The primary sources of sugar are sugar cane and sugar beets. While sucrose is a component found in cane sugar, beet sugar, fruits and vegetables, in its purified isolated form, it is commonly found in manufactured foods. Sucrose (glucose + fructose), is separated from its natural plant components and, therefore, lacks the accompanying nutrients that assist in its efficient metabolism.

The natural sugars found in whole fruits, vegetables and grains are bound to essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and oils. Enzymes are also present in whole plant foods. These aid in the metabolic process necessary for digestion of the sugars. In addition, the sugars in natural whole foods arrive in the body diluted in a large volume of water to assist in its metabolism. Extraneous concentrated sugars contain empty calories that can be converted to energy, but provide no valuable nutrients. It merely enhances the flavor of many bird foods and makes them more palatable.

Sugar is known to cause dental cavities in humans because sugar encourages the proliferation of oral bacteria. While our birds do not have teeth it makes sense that foods eaten daily that contain refined sugar may produce a gummy mass of bacteria that could initiate the growth of oral bacteria, which could then spread throughout the intestinal tract and create health problems.

How many people question the foods they feed their birds as the source of infection, such as yeast or bacteria? How many people stop to think about why these infections occur? How many people know that nutrition plays a major role in prevention?

To a nutritionist concerned with birds, health is not just the absence of disease, but also a state of vitality and wellness. This includes good appetite, proper digestion, resistance to infection, healthy skin and feathers and emotional and mental vibrancy.


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