Do animals need vitamins

Vitamins - Introduction

Vitamins are relatively complex organic compounds that are vital for the organism. Vitamins are neither energy sources, such as B. carbohydrates, fats and proteins, nor do they serve the tissue structure. They are required in small amounts to support cell metabolism and act as catalysts in almost all metabolic reactions - a unique property of vitamins compared to other nutrients. Most vitamins have to be taken in with food, as the body cannot synthesize them or cannot synthesize them as required; they are essential. Of the 20 known vitamins, 11 are essential for humans.

What does "essential" actually mean?

Plants can produce all organic substances themselves and thus also synthesize all vitamins. Horses and dogs have a limited ability to synthesize some vitamins on their own, such as B. the B vitamins and vitamin K, which are formed in the intestines of animals by intestinal bacteria, vitamin C, which can be synthesized via glucose, and vitamin D, which is produced through the skin through sun exposure. Humans are also able to synthesize vitamin D with sufficient sun exposure and niacin via the amino acid tryptophan.
Plants may not be dependent on vitamins because they appeared much earlier in evolution than animals. In order to be able to exist in the long term, they had to produce these essential substances themselves. Humans and animals, on the other hand, did not need to undertake this energy-consuming effort as long as there was sufficient vitamin-rich food in plants and animals for them, on whose regular intake they also became dependent.

This is supported by the fact that, despite the proven ability to self-synthesize certain vitamins in horses and dogs, these vitamins should still be fed through the food.
Take vitamin C, for example: During the spring and summer months, nature offers a wide variety of plants, herbs and fruits containing vitamin C, which are available to the horses as food and meet their vitamin C requirements, i.e. without their own expenditure of energy.
According to recurring claims, vitamin C can always be synthesized by the horse as required - even with higher metabolic loads, such as coat change, stressful situations, convalescence after illnesses.
That must be doubted.
From a developmental point of view, it does not make sense for any organism to go the energy-intensive path of self-synthesis, but to choose the more convenient, energy-saving direction via food intake. Since the horses nowadays no longer have the necessary nutritional basis for them in the form of plants, herbs, fruits and bark, an adequate supply of vitamins should be provided through the feed. Rosehips and other berries or extracts, e.g. from acerola cherry and sea buckthorn, are particularly suitable for this.

Fat soluble - water soluble

The classic division of vitamins is made into fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins. The absorption and utilization of fat-soluble vitamins is the same as with fats; the metabolic end products are excreted with the faeces. Most water-soluble vitamins, on the other hand, are absorbed passively through the small intestine and excreted in the urine.

Fat-soluble vitamins consumed in excess can be stored in the liver. The frequently put forward hypothesis that horses could store the fat-soluble vitamins absorbed over the summer months in the body as sufficient storage for the winter must be questioned: This only works with an intact intestine with a healthy intestinal flora and thus enabled healthy metabolism, which many horses today But no longer have time.

The possibility of hypervitaminosis (oversupply of vitamins) with possibly toxic accumulations is significantly greater with fat-soluble vitamins than with water-soluble vitamins. Except for cobalamin, the water-soluble substances cannot be stored. Nevertheless, an intake of water-soluble vitamins that exceeds the requirements can have negative effects on the metabolism.

Fat-soluble vitamins

Vitamin A (retinol and retinyl ester)
Vitamin D (calcitriol)
Vitamin E (tocopherol)
Vitamin K (K1 phylloquinone, K2 menaquinone)

Water soluble vitamins

Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
Vitamin B3 (niacin = nicotinic acid and nicotinamide)
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine, pyridoxal, pyridoxamine)
Vitamin B7 (biotin)
Vitamin B9 (folic acid)
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin)
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)

Provitamins as biological precursors of vitamins have to be converted into vitamins in the body in order to be able to develop the corresponding effect. Provitamins are z. B. the beta-carotenes formed by plants, which are converted into vitamin A (retinol) by animals or humans.

Dr. Frauke Garbers, Biologist

Picture gallery

Previous ArticleNext Article "Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA)"

Back to overview