Importance of Nucleotides

The Importance of  Nucleotides

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

Nucleotides are the building blocks that are necessary for making new DNA and RNA. 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 us all. DNA is a very large molecule, and the rungs of the DNA ladder are made of a combination of two different nucleotides. The nucleotides are molecules, called guanosine and cytosine, that pair up together, or 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, except that the molecule uradine replaces thymine in that pair, and RNA is an intermediary between DNA and protein. A gene is a discrete sequence of DNA nucleotides, and genes are what make up our chromosomes. So, it makes sense that genes are made of DNA.

While all of this sounds very technical, what you need to understand is that nucleotides are molecules that are 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 bird, human, ferret, 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 as it. These cells all must use nucleotides to make new cells, relying on DNA and RNA to correctly multiply cells. Nucleotides are used for creating cells, replacing cells, including developing immune cells, developing sperm cells and supporting the female reproductive tract.

Which tissues and cells require the largest numbers of nucleotides? While all cells require large numbers of nucleotides, these cells, including red blood cells, white blood cells, intestinal cells, bone marrow cells and some brain cells all cannot make (or produce enough) nucleotides to cover their requirements. Nucleotides are essential for the proper functioning of the immune system, for cell repair after injury or disease and for helping prevent disease. Stress can also increase the need for nucleotides, which are necessary for overcoming the negative effects of hormones released (during stress), for building up the immune system.

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 intestines of animals, and also in bacterial and yeast cultures, none of which, obviously, are usually consumed.

The new diets being offered by the Pretty Bird company have abundant available nucleotides in them, which allows an animal to absorb and utilize all that they need. The fact that these foods contain abundant nucleotides is what makes them unique and so beneficial to the health of our pets. By supplying abundant nucleotides, the immune system will be able to function at peak efficiency, the liver will be better able to repair itself after insult from toxins (for example, from mycotoxins found in peanuts), and other tissues will be able to repair themselves after injury.

How do we know that nucleotides can do these things? Studies have been performed on birds and mice that have shown remarkable benefits to added nucleotides in the diet. A study was performed on chickens, challenging them with the Newcastle's Disease Virus, and birds fed a ration with a commercial preparation of nucleotides before and during the challenge with the virus had a much higher survival rate than those fed a normal poultry feed.

The supplementation of nucleotides will increase the resistance to bacterial infections in animals and humans. This was demonstrated in another study that was performed on mice. Mice were exposed to a pathogenic (disease-causing) strain of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. The group fed a regular rodent ration experienced a 100% mortality rate. Those fed differing amounts of increased nucleotides in their ration had much higher survival rates: 53% mortality in a group fed .25% RNA in the ration, 74% mortality in a group fed 0.06% adenine, and 58% mortality in a group fed 0.06% uracil. This is very exciting research and what it means is that instead of 100% of mice dying after being infected with the Staph. bacteria, of those fed additional uracil only, 42% survived the infection, with no additional treatment with antibiotics or other care.

Mycotoxins are a big concern for bird owners, as these toxins can be present in peanuts. Mycotoxins cannot be seen, tasted or smelled, but can be present in harmless-looking peanuts. Studies were performed on poultry and pigs, fed either a standard ration, or one with supplemented nucleotides. The results showed that the livers of the animals fed additional nucleotides had significantly lower levels of mycotoxins than those fed a standard ration. Also, mycotoxins levels in the feces of the supplemented animals were higher than standard-fed animals, showing that they were able to excrete more toxins than the control group.

Additional Benefits

There are other studies that show additional benefits from the supplementation of the diet with nucleotides.

Benefits include:

*   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
*   reversal of malnutrition and starvation-induced immunosuppression
*   increase in natural killer (NK) cell activity and interleukin-2 production
*   increase of plasma HDL cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol)
*   decrease in the concentration of LDL cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol)
*   faster recovery of the liver after injury
*   positive effects on the intestines
*   intestinal repair after diarrhea
*   positive effects of recovery from stress

There are scientific studies to demonstrate all of these positive effects.

The new ferret diet is entirely reformulated to better approximate the natural nutrition of mustelids. In addition to supplying the ferret with abundant nucleotides, it also is much lower in carbohydrates than other ferret formulations on the market, as ferrets are true carnivores and would normally ingest a small percentage of carbohydrates. This should have positive effects on the pancreas as carbohydrates are involved with insulin secretion. There are no grains in this diet at all. This carnivore feeding regime, especially tailored for ferrets, containing abundant nucleotides, proteases, other enzymes and probiotics, will provide a balanced, healthy daily ration as well as providing the ferret with nutrients that should enhance the immune system and promote faster healing. This food is highly digestible and should decrease the odor of feces. It should be beneficial for ferrets with ECE-associated diarrhea and other infectious diseases.

The diet now available for psittacines also contains abundant nucleotides, which will help improve resistance to infectious organisms, help detoxify the liver and should bring breeder birds into optimal health for successful reproduction. Studies have shown that feeding a diet high in nucleotides will enhance the reproductive system of hens for maximum egg production and optimum hatchability. A ration high in nucleotides will help a hen maintain a high immune status which will protect her from infections. The complete food will also support the transfer of a high antibody titer to the offspring. Studies have shown that young animals will benefit greatly from increased nucleotides in the food, causing acceleration of growth and differentiation of the intestines, and increased activity of certain enzymes found in the brush border of the intestinal villi (the absorptive portion of the intestinal lining). Chicks should have increased size due to optimal growth. A high nucleotide complete food will support good development of the offspring and will lower the mortality of both hens and chicks, will result in higher egg production and higher production of chicks. These claims are all supported by research results performed on poultry.

These new diets represent a true breakthrough in nutrition for birds and ferrets. Since nucleotides are naturally-occurring substances, they are extremely safe to include in a feeding regime, and are nothing like antibiotics and other types of additives that may prove detrimental in the long run. Abundant nucleotides will allow your pet to become the healthiest possible, and the correct percentages of protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals will provide the nutritional support for the life of your bird or ferret.

These diets are now available from Pretty Bird. It is recommended that the avian diet be used for breeder birds, as there is a chance that this diet may bring a pet bird into breeding condition, which may be unwanted in a pet. 


Koppel, P. Physiological and nutritional functions of nucleotides. Chemoforma LTD, Switzerland, for DSS Global, Inc.
Glasgow Veterinary School. Effect of ASCOGEN on intestinal morphology and the performance of the broiler chicken. Publication, February 2003.
Koppel, P and Hoffmann, K. Effect of nucleotides in daily life.

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