What Are Tocopherols?
Tocopherols, or Mixed Tocopherols as they are also known, are a preservative used in food for human consumption as well as pet food to assist minimize and prevent spoilage.
The reason that Tocopherols are effective preservatives is that they can inhibit the oxidation of fats which would cause the food in question to go rancid.
Tocopherols are a type of E Vitamins, such as Alpha-Tocopherol or Beta-Tocopherol, that are commonly found in foods like vegetables, nuts, and fish.
However, while they can be found naturally in many foods, The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association mentions that Mixed Tocopherols found in foods are a By-product of the soybean industry.
It is likely that most Mixed Tocopherols found in processed foods come from large-scale and processed sources such as soybeans.
Why Are Tocopherols Used In Dog Food?
Tocopherols are one of the most common minor ingredients to find in dog food, including dry dog food, wet dog food, and dog treats.
They are usually much further down the ingredient list than most other recognizable ingredients like meat ingredients or vegetables.
One of the main reasons that Tocopherols are used in dog food is that they are often touted as a superior or preferred preservative as they are more “natural”.
While there is no clear-cut research, many believe that artificial preservatives can be a danger or hazard and could have long-term health effects.
This is especially true of preservatives like BHT, BHA, propylene glycol, and others which have a very bad reputation in the industry.
Just as many humans have moved away from artificial or highly processed ingredients and chemicals, for this reason, they are choosing to move their pets away too.
Another and more simple reason that Tocopherols are used in dog food is that they are highly effective at their task. Dog food recipes, especially those from higher-cost or premium brands, often contain very high levels of fat.
Without the use of preservatives like Mixed Tocopherols, these fats would cause the food to have a poor shelf life which would not be practical.
Lastly, Tocopherols can be advantageous as they can also provide some health benefits from the vitamins they consist of as well as their preservative properties.
Tocopherols Nutrition For Dogs
We will start by saying that Tocopherols are not included in dog food to provide nutrition. For example, they do not provide any of the core nutrients such as protein, fat, or carbohydrates.
However, as we mentioned previously, Tocopherols are made up of E Vitamins which can provide some health benefits to dogs.
Some examples of the benefits of Vitamin E include helping to maintain a healthy immune system, improving skin health, and helping maintain healthy vision.
However, for most dog food recipes, the quantity of Vitamin E found in the Mixed Tocopherols is unlikely to be significant, so one should not expect to see any significant benefits or improvements.
Dog Food Brands That Use Tocopherols
A huge variety of dog food brands make use of Tocopherols, including some of the premium/luxury brands, industry giants, and smaller boutique brands.
Based on researching the 100 bestselling dry dog food recipes on Chewy.com, we found that a whopping 81/100 contained some form of Tocopherols.
Some of the best-known brands to use Tocopherols in their dog food recipes include Hill’s Science Diet, Purina Pro Plan, and Royal Canin, but also includes others like Taste of the Wild, Blue Buffalo, Diamond, Victor, Orijen, Acana, and more.
You can see a classic example of the use of Tocopherols in a dry dog food recipe below, which is the ingredient list of Blue Buffalo’s Life Protection Adult Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe.
As you can see, Mixed Tocopherols are listed here twice, once as part of a portion of Chicken Fat and then once again independently.
Mixed Tocopherols being included as part of other fatty ingredients like Chicken Fat or Oils like Canola Oil is common practice.
The widespread use of Mixed Tocopherols is not surprising, as many of these dog food brands proudly state that they do not use artificial preservatives.
As a consequence, they must turn to natural preservatives like Tocopherols to ensure that their products have a long and safe shelf life.
However, it is also important to note that there are viable alternatives to the use of mixed tocopherols in dog food. Just because a brand does not use them in their recipes does not mean they are using artificial preservatives instead.