by Jami Galindo
As soon as we are old enough to understand spoken word we start to learn about cause and effect. If a baby cries, mum will come. This concept governs our entire lives as humans. Cause and effect. This blog explains cause and effect as it relates to sugars in the diet and behaviors of companion birds .
Sugar is essential for survival; it provides the energy a body needs to function. If used properly -- and in moderation -- sugar provides the source of energy the body uses for fuel, known as glucose. The goal is to only take in and store the amount needed to function properly. A marathon runner (or free flying bird in the wild) has a totally different fuel (sugar or carb) intake requirement than someone who is less active. This is the same is true for your bird.
All the time we hear ... "they would eat this in the wild," well yes they would, but they would also have to fly a great distance to get it. They would expel the stored energy they currently have and then would burn more energy to fly to a safe roosting spot away from predatory dangers. Now add in flying to bathe and forage and play, more burning of stored energy, and keeping warm at night and socializing / playing with all the flock mates and you have yourself a marathon runner.
When you compare all that to the energy used by companion birds, you'll see that not much energy is needed. Why? Because we are often their taxi and chef who provides all they need in a convenient food bowl that is no more than a few steps away. Yes we (me included) all want the best for our feathered babies, but there really isn't much opportunity for them to utilize a high-energy diet like they may eat in the wild. Too much sugar can result in undesired behaviors because there's no way for them to use all that energy. Am I wrong? They don't live in the wild, so for them to be healthy we MUST feed them according to the amount of energy they need.
Many of the social media forums are on a 'NO SUGAR' kick and we get it, but some sugar in the diet is necessary. If the body runs out of stored energy and there's no immediate fuel available, it begins to look for other sources of energy to use, such as protein. You don't want to have to use protein as a source of energy because of the possibility of damage to the kidneys as a result of unnecessary stress. After prolonged periods of starvation the body will deplete its fat stores and energy reserve and begins to burn lean tissue and muscle as a fuel source.
Sugars and carbohydrates play an important role in providing this energy source to fuel the body through the day, supporting normal activities, exercise, and to carry out the basic bodily functions, including brain activity.
You have control over the kind of sugar you put in your bird's diet which means you can use forms of sugar that the body will use over a period of time like slow release, low Glycemic Index (GI) fruits, vegetables, and grains. The body processes these types of foods more slowly than foods that contain added, processed sugars. This means that the body will shore up its glycogen stores and will have plenty of fuel to use, without danger of depletion and increasing the risk of impaired brain function.
So, don't be afraid of the small amount of sugar in pellets and learn to feed the right kinds of sugars (LOW GI) along with dark greens and other fresh veggies. As with most everything in life, balance and moderation is key. Provide opportunities for your bird to exercise, play and move about in search of food morsels (foraging). Your bird will be much healthier and happy for it.