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How the seventh nutrient phytochemicals helps fight lifestyle diseases

The average lifespan of animals kept as pets is steadily increasing, in line with the human life span. According to a joint study by the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology and the Japan Small Animal Veterinary Association (JSAVA), the average life expectancy was 13.2 years for dogs and 11.9 years for cats in 2014. This represents a significant improvement in the two decades since 1990, when the first such study was conducted; average life expectancy for dogs has increased by 50% (compared to 8.6 years in 1990) and 130% for cats (5.1 years).

This phenomenon can be partly attributed to better feed quality and advances in veterinary science.
But at the same time as life expectancies are rising, we are also seeing an increase in the incidence of unpreventable and untreatable diseases and afflictions.
The Japan Animal Club has published lists of the top ten disease-related causes of death for dogs and cats (see below).

Top ten disease-related causes of death for dogs
1 Cancer 54%
2 Heart disease 17%
3 Renal failure 7%
4 Epileptic seizure 5%
5 Liver disease 5%
6 Gastric dilatation/torsion 4%
7 Diabetes 3%
8 Addison’s disease 2%
9 Cushing disease 2%
10 Sudden death 1%

Cancer accounts for more than half of all deaths

Cancer is the leading cause of death for dogs, responsible for more than half the total.
Dogs tend to be more susceptible to cancer. As with humans, the cancer risk increases with age. Cancer is the leading cause of death among older dogs.
The best way to minimize the risk of cancer is to keep your dog in good health, with a balanced diet and regular exercise. The next most common causes of death—heart disease and renal failure—can also be addressed through diet and exercise, as well as good lifestyle habits.
It is important to monitor your dog’s weight, since obesity can increase the risk of various diseases. From the age of around nine onwards, have your dog checked regularly—ideally once or twice per year.

Top ten disease-related causes of death for cats
1 Cancer 38%
2 Renal failure 22%
3 Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) 10%
4 Heart disease 7%
5 Liver disease 6%
6 Feline AIDS 6%
7 Feline leukemia 5%
8 Hyperthyroidism 3%
9 Liver disease 2%
10 Viral respiratory infection 1%

Urinary problems and infections

While cancer and renal failure are the leading causes of death among cats, urinary problems and infections are also quite common.
These can largely be avoided through regular vaccinations and by keeping your cat indoors where it cannot come into direct contact with infected cats. As with dogs, it is important to ensure your cat has a healthy diet and does not become overweight.
Source: Top ten disease-related causes of death for cats and dogs (Animal Club Japan)

These statistics suggest that the probability of lifestyle diseases such as cancer increases in line with life expectancy. But an important contributing factor is the simple fact that the immune system and metabolism, as well as general body functioning, tend to decline with age.
As the lifestyle of an animal changes with age, it is important to tailor their diet accordingly so that they are better able to face the challenges posed by age-related diseases.
For example, it has long been held that the six key nutrients* provide a balanced diet for dogs.
* The six key nutrients are protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and water.
Today, however, with the increase in average life expectancy, it is thought that a healthy diet for dogs also requires a seventh nutrient: phytochemicals. Phytochemicals, found in functional vegetables, contain much higher levels of antioxidant nutrients and vitamins than ordinary vegetables. The antioxidant components of phytochemicals in particular are believed to be effective at combatting lifestyle diseases.
* In years gone by, dogs could not digest vegetables or absorb vegetable matter, so vegetables were considered largely irrelevant to the canine diet. But today, it is widely accepted that the vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber in vegetables constitute an important part of a healthy diet. Research suggests that dogs who are given a diet high in dietary fiber tend to live longer.
In order to keep your dog in good health and minimize the risk of lifestyle diseases while maximizing life expectancy, you should provide additional between-meal supplements of phytochemicals, the all-important seventh nutrient.

Seven nutrients for a healthy diet

Benefits of the seventh nutrient: phytochemicals

About functional vegetables

The so-called “elite” vegetables that have recently started to appear on supermarket shelves are the result of species improvement and other technological advances used to boost the nutritional value of vegetables. In particular, functional vegetables benefit from the antioxidant effects of phytochemicals, the seventh nutrient. At a time when dietary supplements are commonplace, it is good to know that functional vegetables are packed with essential nutrients that in many cases can be used to replace supplements altogether.
Functional vegetables are rich in antioxidant vitamins, phytochemicals* and other important nutrients that are largely missing from standard vegetables.

* The “phyto” prefix in phytochemicals is a Greek word meaning plant. Phytochemicals have been dubbed the seventh nutrient element.
Phytochemicals are a key determinant of plant color, aroma and taste. Phytochemicals are present in around 10,000* different varieties of vegetables, fruits and pulses.

* The best known phytochemicals are anthocyanin (a powerful antioxidant), lutein (protects the eyes from disease and harmful light such as blue light), catechin (prevents obesity) and lycopene (enhances natural beauty with 100 times the antioxidant effect of Vitamin E). Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables that contain these phytochemicals—the distilled goodness of the plant world—boosts the antioxidant and immune functions that help to prevent lifestyle diseases and slow the aging process.

Phytochemicals account for a significant proportion of the ingredients used in foods that have been designated under the “foods for specified health uses” (FSH) scheme, a recent innovation that has attracted the public interest.

Common phytochemicals and where to find them

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