Linda Arndt ~ Canine Nutritional Consultant

The Beet Pulp Myth

INTRODUCTION: The Origins of the Beet Pulp Myth

Like many nutritional myths perpetuated on the internet, the myth of BEET PULP as a negative ingredient was originally started by a dog food company over 30 years ago. The intent was to dissuade consumers from using pelletized foods and move over to their product which was in the form of meat meal (non pelletized). Because this propaganda was started over 30 years ago, long before internet accessibility, this information was perpetuated through paid advertisements published in breed magazines such as Dog World, Great Dane Dispatch, Great Dane Reporter etc. This was done in an article format, but it was actually a paid advertisements, much like the ones you see done in dog magazines today. It's confusing to the consumer because these "thesis" appear as a legitimate unbiased article published by the magazines writers, when in fact it is a form of sophisticated propaganda.

The intent was to spread misinformation through fear; that (1) beet pulp causes bloat in dogs and (2) it is a filler for dog foods. Both of which are untruths and will be addressed in this article, which is based in science, as well as 40 years of experience living with Giant breeds. (Note: all breeds can bloat).

As a university educator for 34 years, a dog breeder for 40 years and a nutritional consultant in the pet food industry for 30 years, it is very important that my puppy buyers know the TRUTH about these kinds of myths, so they can make educated decisions about their pet's welfare.

The Beet Pulp Myth

Beet pulp is probably one of the most misunderstood and maligned ingredients in manufactured dog foods. Please take the time to understand to understand the role of both prebiotics and probiotics in the maintenance of the healthy digestive tract. If this is done, then one can begin to understand the role of beet pulp in a feeding program.

This article speaks to misinformation that has been perpetrated on the internet about the function of beet pulp. The input for this article is from scientists, medical and nutrition people who have studied in the area of prebiotics and probiotics. I will address villae clogging, use of fiber, and saponins.

Please note that the negative information about beet pulp that has been circulating on the internet has no basis in science. It is important to clarify that beet pulp has no color, has no flavor and has no sugar left in it when it is used for fiber. It clear, hair like structures that come from the sugar beet, (a natural vegetable fiber) and it does not turn a coat red. There is absolutely NO color to beet pulp fiber.

It has no nutritional value, meaning it does not contain vitamins and minerals per say, however, it is a form of natural fermentable vegetable fiber and it is a food source for pre-existing beneficial bacteria of the gut. In other words, the beneficial bacteria of the gut can eat the fermentable fiber and it helps it to grow and flourish. It is also important as a natural fiber source which acts as a stool firmer. It is not a filler in dog foods any more than the fibrous hair like strands are, in celery, apples, berries or carrots.

In a dog food you want a fermentable fiber (prebiotics) as well as a source of beneficial new bacteria (probiotic) that is the ideal combination in a dog food.

  • Statement: Beet Pulp clogs the villae in the intestine.

False ~ Beet pulp does not clog the villae in the intestine. There are no scientific studies which support this theory and there are several studies which show how beet pulp is beneficial in promoting a healthy digestive system.

What can clog the villae? If villae are blocked, the prime cause is typically insufficient or total lack of a probiotic colony in the gut. (More on that later.) Another cause of villae clogging is bentonite, which is a fine clay which is used in some cheap dog foods.

  • Statement: Beet pulp is an indigestible fiber.

True, but… While this statement is true, the beet pulp is not in the food for nutritive value to the dog. It is not supposed to be digested by the dog. The beet pulp has two purposes. First, the beet pulp provides nutrition for the probiotics, but beet pulp itself is considered a periodic. Having good food available (periodic) encourages the colonization of probiotics or re seeding of the gut with good intestinal flora.

Prebiotics, as defined by Gibson and Roberfroid (1995) is a "non digestible food ingredients that beneficially affect the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon and thus improves host health," may include starches, dietary fibers, other non-absorbable sugars, sugar alcohol, andoligosaccharides.."

(Gibson et al., 1996). Gibson, G. and Roberfroid, M.B. 1995. Dietary modulation of the human colonic mibrobiota: Introducing the concept of prebiotics. J. Nutr. 125: 1401-1412. Gibson, G.R., Williams, A., Reading, S., and Collins, M.D. 1996. Fermentation of non-digestible oligosaccharides by human colonic bacteria.
Proc. Nutr. Soc. 55: 899-912.

The second purpose of beet pulp, besides being a food source for the probiotics of the gut, is to provide bulk to the stool which allows it to move through the digestive tract. at a rate which assures maximum digestion and absorption of nutrients.

Note: The probiotics cling to the wall of the intestine and dine. While the good bacteria are present in ample quantities, the bad bacteria/fungus cannot gain a foot- hold and dominate the gut’s environment.

  • Statement: Saponins in the beet pulp might be responsible for bloat.

False ~ This could not be further from the truth.

In the paper, "Toxic Substances and Crop Plants" by the Royal Society of Chemistry states that "saponins at the levels fed in modern diets are not toxic but in fact exert a variety of health enhancing benefits, (*including providing fermentation (a food source) for probiotic (good bacteria) viability. )

A statement to me from Dr. K. Kern Wysong Corporation and Research Facility Jan 27, 1993.

"The claims ...... that saponins cause bloat in is not documented by any reference to any scientific literature. It is simply conjecture and assertion and not fact. Saponins are found in over 100 plant families. These foods have been a part of the mammalian and human diet for thousands of years. Saponin-containing foods are also known to be of therapeutic and health enhancing benefits. . There is no documented proof that feeding a pet food with micro-amounts of saponins causes gastrointestinal paralysis and vomiting(bloat)".

Below find information from documented scientific sources:

"Beet pulp has been found to be an ideal source of moderately fermentable fiber. Fiber sources such as cellulose, bentonite, peanut hulls or soy bean hulls are poor sources because they are not very fermentable. The correct amount and type of fiber is necessary for a normal healthy digestive tract. There are bacteria in the normal healthy digestive track. These bacteria have the ability to ferment or digest certain types of fiber. The ideal fiber is partially fermentable or digestible, i.e., beet pulp. We want some fiber left to provide that bulk to the stool that is necessary for a healthy digestive system, but we also want some of the fiber to be digested by the bacteria. 1

Beet pulp in a diet encourages colonization of those bacteria which best ferment or digest that form of fiber and discourage those organisms which do not effectively ferment fiber. It so happens that many good bacteria that commonly inhabit the large intestines can deal with beet pulp ( Lactobacillus acidophilus and Enterococcus faecium are just two) and many pathogenic bacteria are not supported by its presence (Clostridium sp.,Salmonella sp. and e. coli)2.

Because beet pulp is an ideal food source for these good bacteria, they tend to overgrow potentially bad bacteria (pathogens and gas producers) and make the gut much more resistant to these harmful organisms. As a result of this digestive or fermentation process, vital nutrients called short chain fatty acids are produced which provide superior nutrition to the cells lining the large intestine enhancing their ability to function.

These short chain fatty acids (SCFA) are the key to a healthy and efficient digestive tract. The cells that line the intestinal track feed voraciously on SCFA. These cells have a high turnover rate and rely on SCFA to provide adequate nutrition. 3

That portion of beet pulp left after the fermentation of bacterial digestive process promotes ideal nutrient digestibility. The volume of stool is not excessive thus allowing the motility of the gut to move the nutrients along at a rate which assures maximum digestion and absorption.4

1. Buterwick, Maxwell. The effect of level and source of dietary fiber on
food intake in the dog. Journal of Nutrition 1994 Vol. 124

2 Collins MD, Gibson Dr. Nutritional modulation of microbial ecology. American
Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1998

3. Hallman JE, Moxley RA, et al. Cellulose, beet pulp and pectin/gum arabic
effects on canine microstructure and histopathology. Veterinary Clinical
Nutrition 1995;2:137-141

4. Albert s. Townshend DVM, Wellness for Life, Am Journal of Clinical
Nutrition 2000

I wish to thank Nan English for helping with the research on this article.

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