DNA RNA Illustration

Margaret A. Wissman, DVM

What are nucleotides and what makes them such a valuable addition to a pet’s nutrition? To answer this question, we need a brief lesson in biochemistry.

Nucleotides are the building blocks necessary for making new DNA and RNA. They can be thought of as DNA food. Next, we need to think back to high school when we learned about the double-helix of DNA. Remember the spiral-appearing ladder with the different colored rungs? That is a model of the DNA that makes up the genes and chromosomes found in all of us. The rungs of the DNA ladder are made up of a combination of four different nucleotides, the alphabet of life. Nucleotides are molecules called guanosine and cytosine that pair up together, along with adenosine and thymidine which also pair up together. Adenosine and guanosine are called purines. Cytosine, thymidine and uradine are called pyrimidines. RNA is similar to DNA and an intermediary between DNA and protein. A gene is a discrete sequence of DNA nucleotides, and genes are what make up our chromosomes.

While all of this sounds very technical, what you need to understand is that nucleotides are molecules essential to the creation of new DNA and RNA molecules which are then used by new cells of all kinds. This is important because nucleotides either by themselves or in combination with other molecules are involved in almost all activities of the cell (and therefore, the body).

So, what exactly makes nucleotides so important? For a cat, human, dog, or other animal to continue to live, grow and develop, it must create new cells all the time, to replace dying cells. Millions of cells must be made every minute, just to maintain the body. These cells all use nucleotides to make new cells, relying on DNA and RNA to correctly multiply cells.

Since we now know that nucleotides are essential in repairing and replacing cells, we must now ask, where do these nucleotides come from?  Many tissues are not able to manufacture (via synthesis) the nucleotides called purines. If an animal cannot produce adequate nucleotides, they must then absorb them from foods they have eaten. Some foods are higher in usable nucleotides than others.  But, in most normal foods, the amounts of usable nucleotides are quite low compared to the need for them. Relatively high concentrations of nucleotides are found in the intestines of animals and in bacterial and yeast cultures, none of which are usually consumed. Normally, for an animal to get their requirement of dietary nucleotides from food, they need to break down the complex cellular structures that make up that food.

How do we know that nucleotides can do these things? Studies performed on birds and mice have shown remarkable benefits to added nucleotides in their foods. One study performed on chickens challenged them with the Newcastle’s Disease virus. Birds fed a food with a commercial preparation of nucleotides before and during the virus challenge had a much higher survival rate than those fed standard poultry feed.

The supplementation of nucleotides can also increase the resistance to bacterial infections in animals and humans. This was demonstrated in another study where mice were exposed to a pathogenic (disease-causing) strain of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. The group fed a regular rodent feed experienced a 100% mortality rate. Those fed differing amounts of increased nucleotides in their feed had much higher survival rates: 53% mortality in a group fed .25% RNA in the feed, 74% mortality in a group fed 0.06% adenine, and 58% mortality in a group fed 0.06% uracil. Of those fed only additional uracil, 42% survived the infection with no additional treatments.

Toxins are a big concern for pet owners and are responsible for many pet food recalls. Studies performed on poultry and pigs fed either a standard feed or one supplemented with nucleotides, showed the livers of the animals fed additional nucleotides had significantly lower levels of mycotoxins than those fed a standard feed. In addition, toxin levels in the feces of the supplemented animals was higher than standard-fed animals, showing they excreted more toxins than the control group.

Other Nucleotide Benefits:

  • Increased resistance to challenge to bacterial and viral infections
  • Acceleration of antibody production
  • Increase in white blood cells called neutrophils
  • Increase in the number of macrophages
  • Increased effectiveness of vaccinations
  • Reversal of malnutrition and starvation-induced immuno suppression
  • Increase in natural killer (NK) cell activity and interleukin-2 production
  • Increase of plasma HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol)
  • Decrease in the concentration of LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol)
  • Reduction in lactic acid build-up in blood after endurance exercise
  • Increase in red blood cell production
  • Decrease in glucose level and increased survival rate (with diabetes)
  • Faster recovery of the liver after injury
  • Effective detoxification from e.g. toxins by the liver
  • Positive effects on the intestines
  • Improved feed conversion and nutrient uptake
  • Intestinal repair after diarrhea
  • Positive effects of recovery from stress
  • Increase in fertility
  • Higher quality embryos

Young Again Pet Foods represent a true breakthrough in nutrition for your pets. This carnivore feeding regimen contains abundant nucleotides, proteases, other enzymes and probiotics to provide a balanced, healthy diet. It provides your pet with the nutrients necessary to enhance their immune system, promote healing and boost overall health.

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