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Corn Gluten Meal – It Don’t Get No Respect!

One of the most misunderstood ingredients in dog and cat food is corn gluten meal.

corn gluten mealThe main concern I hear people mention is that it’s used as an herbicide. My response to that is that I use something far more destructive (to plants) as an herbicide: a mix of salt & vinegar. Since it’s toxic to some plants, does that mean it’s toxic for me? Luckily, no. (I love salt & vinegar chips, fries, and drizzled on cucumbers in the summer.) Salt & vinegar are much more aggressive herbicides than corn gluten meal, because they destroy all vegetation they touch. Corn gluten meal is much friendlier because it affects only the cell walls on young seedlings of only certain types of vegetation. So, corn gluten meal is not at all dangerous in pet food or in people food.

Another misunderstanding about corn gluten meal is that it’s only used as a filler ingredient and it has no nutritional value. Au contraire, my friends. Corn gluten meal actually has very valuable nutrients. In fact, it’s most often used as a protein source. For animals whose veterinarians recommend diets low in meat proteins, corn glutens are the most used non-meat protein option. (Although whole kernel corn and corn meal are considered better protein sources than corn gluten meal by veterinary nutritionists.) Corn gluten meal is basically corn protein with corn starch and corn fat removed.

Given the above, it’s clear that corn gluten meal is not an evil ingredient and there’s no need to avoid it in cat and dog food. That said, there are a few details that might be worth thinking about.

corn on the cobPlant materials (including corn) is less digestible than other protein sources for cats, whose bodies are designed to get all of their nutritional needs from meats. (In other words, they’re “obligate carnivores”.)

When corn gluten meal is the only protein source in a pet food, search the food’s ingredient panel for added arginine. Some studies show that arginine must be added when corn gluten meal is the only protein source for a diet. This is not the case with corn meal or whole kernel corn (sometimes called “ground corn” on food ingredient panels).

Corn meal (which is not the same thing as corn gluten meal) can increase urinary pH, which is connected to struvite crystals. If you know an animal who gets these urine crystals frequently, look at their food package to see if corn meal (again, this is NOT the same thing as corn gluten meal) is one of the first ingredients. If it is, consider switching to a food that has less of this ingredient to see if it reduces the urinary crystals.

That’s my take on corn gluten meal. I’m not wary of foods that include it, and I know that seeing it on a food’s ingredient panel does not necessarily mean the food is low-quality or bad.

Sources

  • Altom, E.K. “Importance of dietary protein to athletic dogs”. North American Veterinary Conference proceedings 2007. NAVC Conference, 13 Jan 2007, Orlando, FL: International veterinary information service. 2010 March 12. http://www.ivis.org/proceedings/navc/2007/SAE/462.asp?LA=1.
  • Association of American Feed Control Officials. Official publication. San Diego, California: Association of American Feed Control Officials Inc, 2003.
  • Buffington CA, NE Cook, QR Rogers, JG Morris. “The role of diet in feline urolithiasis syndrome” in Nutrition of the dog and cat. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989:357–380.
  • Christians, Nick. “Corn gluten meal research”. Department of Horticulture, Iowa State University of Science and Technology. 2012 Nov 27. http://www.hort.iastate.edu/horticulture-research/corn-gluten-meal-research/.
  • Funaba, Masayuki, T Tanaka, Kaneko Masahiro, Iriki Tsunenori, Hatano Yoshikazu, Abe Matanobu. “Fish meal vs. corn gluten meal as a protein source of dry cat food” in Journal of veterinary medicine science. 2001; 63:1355–1357.
  • Funaba, Masayuki, Yuko Oka, Shinji Kobayashi, Masahiro Kaneko, Hiromi Yamamoto, Kazuhiko Namikawa, Tsunenori Iriki, Yoshikazu Hatano, and Matanobu Abe. “Evaluation of meat meal, chicken meal, and corn gluten meal as dietary sources of protein in dry cat food” in Canadian journal of veterinary research. October 2005; 69(4): 299–304. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1250243/.
  • Funaba, Masayuki, C Matsumoto, K Matsuki, et al. “Comparison of corn gluten meal and meat meal as a protein source in dry foods formulated for cats” in American journal of veterinary research. 2002; 63:1247–1251.
  • Funaba, Masayuki, T Yamate, Y Hashida, et al. “Effects of a high-protein diet vs. dietary supplementation with ammonium chloride as possible preventatives against struvite uroliths in clinically normal cats” in American journal of veterinary research. 2003; 64:1059–1064.
  • Messonnier, Shawn.  Natural health bible for dogs and cats. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2001.
  • Pibot, Pascale. Advantages of the incorporation of corn gluten. Aimargues, France: Royal Canin Centre de Recherche, 2001.
  • Powell, Kathy. “Corn gluten meal: A Natural herbicide” in Turf. University of Wisconsin-Extension. http://www.uwex.edu/ces/wihort/turf/CornGluten.htm.

 

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