© Michelle Fry, Newport Aquarium
Nutrition, an important modulator of immune function, is an integral component of the excellent animal husbandry practices AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums incorporate with the animals in their care. The AZA Nutrition Scientific Advisory Group (NAG) and the Endocrinology Scientific Advisory Group work diligently to understand and communicate what proportions of six nutrients, including protein, carbohydrates, fat, fibers, vitamins, and minerals, and water, are needed to promote excellent animal health and prevent disease for each species in their care.
Reference materials such as Feeding Program Guidelines and Animal Care Manuals have been developed to augment animal nutrition within AZA-accredited institutions.
Proteins supply amino acids to build and maintain healthy body tissue. In humans, there are twenty essential amino acids, needed in the right proportions, for the body to function properly. Twelve of these are manufactured in the body but the remaining eight can only be obtained thru a proper diet.
Fats supply energy and transport nutrients. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are required by the body to function normally. Human diets typically contain insufficient amounts of omega-3 fats that need to be supplemented via proper diet.
Simple carbohydrates, such as sugar, and complex carbohydrates, such as grains, are the body's primary source of energy. Complex carbohydrates facilitate better blood glucose control and have fewer calories than simple carbohydrates.
Soluble fiber, found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, attaches to cholesterol so that it can be eliminated from the body, preventing it from re-circulating and being reabsorbed into the bloodstream. Insoluble fiber, found in the bran of grains and vegetable skins, speeds up the transit of foods through the digestive system.
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins are obtained from diet and are needed in small for metabolic regulation and for normal body growth and functioning. Minerals are required to help build muscles, tissues, and bones and are important for hormone regulation and oxygen transportation.
Water is needed to regulate body temperature, transports nutrients to cells, and rids the body of waste materials.