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An entre into functional foods: Golden paste, bone broth and medicinal mushrooms


Fresh from the 2016 Nestl Purina Companion Animal Nutrition Summit, lets look at a few culinary curiosities your veterinary clients might be begging for.

Curious about alternative medicinal foods? Read on! (Getty Images)Turmeric and bones and mushrooms, oh my! Sounds like a witch's brew. It isn't, but these foods are some of what is hot and brewing in the alternative medical communities being used as dietary therapies for various disease states.

The direction in which new dietary therapies become widespread used to be from doctor to veterinary client, but Dr. Google has had her hand in a significant change, and now the direction is increasingly from consumer to medical advisor. Many of your clients are adopting these therapies themselves and then for their pets. Many will not even think to tell you that they have done so or ask your opinion. So when they do tell or ask you, you can gain instant "medical rock star" status if you are familiar with the latest functional foods.

Susan G. Wynn, DVM, CVA, CVCH, AHG, of BluePearl Georgia Veterinary Specialists' Nutrition and Integrative Medicine Department, gives you that opportunity in a series of two articles from her presentation at the 2016 Nestl Purina Companion Animal Summit.

Aren't all foods functional?

You may be wondering what the term functional food means and if it differs from nutraceuticals, dietary supplements or botanical herbs. Dr. Wynn explains, "A functional food is a revised food that claims to improve health by providing benefit beyond that of the traditional nutrients it contains: think fortified cereal. A nutraceutical is a dietary supplement that provides health benefits in addition to its basic nutritional value. A botanical or medicinal herb consists of whole or extracted plants."

According to Dr. Wynn, veterinarians in integrative practice report that some of the most recent popular functional foods include:

  • Golden paste

  • Bone broth

  • Medicinal mushrooms

  • Cannabis

  • 1-Tetradecanol complex (1-TDC)

  • Coconut oil

  • Apple cider vinegar and the alkaline diet

This article discusses golden paste, bone broth and medicinal mushrooms. Part 2 reviews cannabis. Yes, it needs its own article!

It should be noted that for all of these therapies, some tout the benefit of using the entire herb or plant rather than the extracted or synthetic bioactive constituents. This is because much is still unknown about a lot of the individual constituents, and taking advantage of the herb or plants complexity is considered to lead to a synergism, called the entourage effect.

Is golden paste the golden ticket?

This concoction has been used as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant and to treat and prevent a variety of things, most commonly osteoarthritis and cancer in people. Dr. Wynn says, "Golden paste is often recommended for dogs with osteoarthritis, cancer, and chronic inflammatory conditions." Curcumin is thought to be the primary active compound in turmeric and has been widely studied, although there are dozens of other unique bioactive active compounds within the turmeric rhizome.

Here is the usual recipe. Combine and then gently heat:

  • 1/2 cup powdered turmeric

  • 1 cup water

  • 1/3 cup coconut or cold pressed olive oil

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Dogs tend to find this paste very palatable, and the recommended dose in dogs is variable. It ranges from teaspoon to 1 tablespoon by mouth daily, divided if desired, and is dependent on the size of the dog and the condition being treated.

Contraindications for using turmeric and golden paste include patients undergoing surgery; patients with gallbladder disease, surgical patients, diabetes mellitus, gastroesophageal reflux disease, hormone-sensitive tumors and iron absorption problems. It is also contraindicated in male patients who need to maintain normal testosterone production and sperm motility.

Bone broth: The cure for the common cold?

The claims are that bone broth contains vitamins and minerals from broken down bones that have powerful healing properties that can help to alleviate joint and gut pain, boost your immune system, brighten your skin and even make your hair shiny. However, according to Dr. Wynn, "Although bone broth may provide a bioavailable source of minerals and nitrogen, whether this provides benefit to pets eating complete and balanced diets is questionable."

There is no single recipe for bone broth. Cooking times will change the nutrient profile, as will the addition of vegetables to the pot while being cooked.

There may be a slight risk of lead or vitamin D toxicosis associated with consuming a lot of bone broth. Lead is contained in bone, and the older the animal, the more lead its bones contain. A study showed that whole chicken carcass, when boiled, yielded lead (7 to 9 g of lead/L of bone broth vs. 0.89 g of lead/L of tap water).1 And there is one report of hypercalcemia and organ calcification in a human patient consuming 1 to 2 L of bone broth at least three days a week.2 Excess Vitamin D stored in the fat from bone marrow was thought to have caused the hypercalcemia.

Medicinal mushrooms (ahem, not those kind of mushrooms)

Fungi are fascinating. They are their own kingdom, literally. They are neither plant nor animal, but Dr. Wynn says that they have more in common with animals than plants! There are an estimated three to five million species of fungi, and more than 100 species are found in modern Chinese pharmacopeias. The turkey tail mushroom (Trametes versicolor) extract, polysaccharide-K (PSK), has undergone more human clinical trials than any other compound.

The known bioactive constituents of mushrooms are:

  • Polysaccharides

  • Heterosaccharides

  • Pharmacologically active proteins

  • Phenols

  • Polyphenols

  • Terpenoids

  • Ergosterols

  • Volatile organic compounds

The proposed activities of medicinal mushrooms are:

  • Antitumor

  • Immune system modulation

  • Antioxidant

  • Cardiovascular benefits

  • Antihypercholesterolemic

  • Antiviral, antiphytoviral

  • Antibacterial

  • Antiparasitic

  • Antifungal (isn't that ironic, don't you think?)

  • Anti-inflammatory

  • Detoxification

  • Hepatoprotective

  • Antidiabetic

  • Herbicidal

  • Nematicidal

  • Antiallergic

  • Antinociceptive

Currently, the best-studied medicinal uses for mushrooms are:

  • Prevention and treatment of immunodeficiency and immunosuppression. (This may seem like a contradiction and may have to do with the difference between results obtained by in vitro studies vs. in vivo studies.)

  • Support of patients undergoing radiation and chemotherapy

  • Cancer (prevention of oncogenesis, direct antitumor activity, metastasis prevention)

  • Blood-borne viral infections, especially hepatitis B, C and D; human immunodeficiency virus; herpes simplex virus; and Epstein-Barr virus

  • Chronic gastritis and gastric ulcers due to Helicobacter pylori

  • Dementia and Alzheimers disease

Severe side effects of medicinal mushroom supplements have rarely been reported and they appear to be safe for use in treating these diseases, clinical signs and ailments. After all, the Chinese have been doing it for centuries!


1. Munro JA, Leona R, Purib BK. The risk of lead contamination in bone broth diets. Med Hypotheses 2011;8:389-390.

2. Pandita KK, Pandita S, Hassan T. "Toxic" beef bone soup. Clin Cases Miner Bone Metab 2011;843-844.

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