Zoonutrients or Zoochemicals refer to natural health promoting components found in animal products that may prevent or cure disease. Zoochemicals are physiologically active food ingredients in animal sources. The ‘Zoochemicals’ was coined by Anthony Amada – a nutritional biochemist at Myogenix in Palo Alto, California – to describe healthful compounds in animal products including fish, eggs, dairy products and meat. Generally Zoochemicals come from the plants that animals eat. The bioactive food components may arise from plants (phytochemicals), animal sources (Zoochemicals), fungi (fungochemicals), or the metabolism of food components by bacteria within the gastrointestinal tract (bacterochemicals)(Milner, 2006). The foods that contain Zoochemicals and phytochemicals are sometimes called functional foods. A functional (or super food) is a food or product that likely promotes optimal health, beyond simply helping the body meet its basic nutritional needs. Functional foods contain either a high concentration of traditional nutrients, phytonutrients and/or Zoonutrients. For example soymilk is often referred to as a functional food because it contains phytochemicals that are believed to decrease the risk of some cancers or cow’s milk which is rich in Zoochemicals that may lower the risk of cancer and high blood pressure and tomatoes, which may promote cardiovascular health.
Milk is made of two proteins, casein and whey. Casein protein constitutes 80% and whey protein 20% of milk protein. Human breast milk is 80% whey protein. Milk for human consumption can generally be obtained from a number of domesticated animals such as sheep, goat, buffalo and cow. Fresh cow milk contains approximately 3.5 % protein, 80% casein, 15% whey protein as well as vitamins and lipids, all of which provide necessary ingredients of growth. Casein protein is recognized for its excellent amino acid content, slow digestion and anti-catabolic effect.
Whey protein can be separated from the casein in milk or formed as a by-product of cheese making. There are 3 primary types of whey proteins: whey protein concentrate (WPC), whey protein isolate (WPI) and whey protein hydrolysate (WPH). Whey protein is considered as a nutritionally perfect protein with high biological value (BV), high protein efficiency ratio (PER) and high net protein utilization (NPV).Whey protein includes a mixture of globular proteins (lactoferrin, beta-lactoglobulin, alpha lactalbumin, bovine serum albumin and immunoglobulins), all essential amino acids and low lactose content. Whey has the ability to act as an antioxidant, antihypertensive, antitumor, hypolepidemic, antimicrobial and chelating agent. A number of clinical trials successfully revealed the therapeutic effects in cancer, HIV, hepatitis B, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. The higher glutathione levels in whey proteins have important immune, antioxidant and detoxification benefits (Report of International Whey Conference, Oct 1997).
Colostrum is nature’s most nutrient dense zoonutrient. A mother animal produces true colostrum for only the 24 hours after giving birth. It is a non-milk immune supporting fluid. It is rich in highly bioavailable vitamins and minerals. Colostrum yield as high 40% immunoglobulins and immuno-modulating proline – rich polypeptides(PRPs). It can help preventing anaemia, arthritis, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease.
Eggs generally weigh about 57 grams. The yolk proteins of an egg makes up about 34% of the liquid weight and the albumen accounts for about 66% of the egg’s liquid weight. A large egg provides a total of 6.29 grams of high quality complete protein. The yolk portion provides 55 calories and the egg white contributes 17 calories. About 9% of the egg content is fat and is found in yolk. Egg yolk carries the cholesterol, the fat and the saturated fat. The egg white contains bulk of proteins, folic acid, choline and minerals. The egg protein is a rich source of the essential amino acid leucine, which is important in modulating the use of glucose by the skeletal muscles. The egg is an excellent source of iodine for thyroid hormone synthesis, phosphorus for bone health, zinc for growth and wound healing and selenium for anti-cancer activity. The egg cholesterol is useful for the production of sex hormones, cortisol, vitamin D and bile salts.
Fish is low in total fat, high in protein and rich in vitamins and minerals. The protein content of most fish averages 15 to 20%. In addition to proteins and essential amino acids, fish contains significant amounts of lipids, vitamins and minerals. Fish meat is a valuable source of calcium and phosphorus as well as iron, copper and selenium. Salt water fish have a high content of iodine.Both fresh water fish of cold waters and salt water fish contain significant levels of two omega-3 fatty acids (N-3 fatty acids) such as EPA (eicosapentaenic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Some good choices of fish includes salmon, trout, sardines, herring, mackerel, tuna and oysters. Fish oil is the best source of N-3 fatty acids which help reduce platelet activity (blood clotting) and plaque formation (atheroscelerosis) leads to heart attacks. The fish nutrients keep our heart and brain healthy. The USDA’s My Plate says that eating seafood (fish and shellfish) twice a week is good for our heart, brain and entire body.
Foods in the meat, poultry and fish group are diverse, but all of them are rich in proteins. The amount and quality of protein in the foods varies. Animal meats like beef, pork and ham contain high quality proteins with all the amino acids. Besides proteins, these animal foods contain varying amounts of minerals such as iron, zinc and magnesium and vitamins E and B (thiamine, niacin, vitamins B6 and B12). The bad aspect of these foods is having substantial amounts of fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. Eating lean cuts of protein rich meats can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Vitamins B6 and B12 help improve memory. Both niacin and zinc help protect against vision problems.
Zoonutrients are compounds uniquely present in animal foods that provide health benefits beyond the provision of essential nutrients and energy. Calcium –rich dairy foods may help protect from high blood pressure and colon cancer. Eating meats of beef cattle and lamb which contain the fatty acid conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) may help lower the risk of cancer. The essential fatty acid omega -3s in fatty fish may lower the risk heart disease and improve the mental performance. Bovine colostrum contain many hormones, growth factors and bioactive substances , which can be used for boosting natural immunity, slowing down aging, repairing nervous system damage and as an agent for killing bacteria and fungi. Whey protein contains various bioactive peptide components that may have a positive effect on cardiovascular health. The zoonutrient in the royal jelly of honey bee may reduce the risk of infection.