Tree of Life Blair Better Balance

Better Balance in Nutrition | Part 2

August 8, 2022 Dr. Blaire Aldridge

Earth’s covenant of renewal and equilibrium is our constant reminder of what is required to live a healthy, balanced life. When we alter an animal’s natural way of life, we scientists of the industry take responsibility to evaluate the appropriate nutrition to prevent deficiencies maximize genetic potential, and illustrate the length, quality, and vibrancy of life. It is easy to see in our everyday lives how we are of and from the earth itself. Contemplation of this paradigm leads us to the unmistakable conclusion that its laws work through us literally, symbolically, and spiritually. Like a tree, we are, in W.B. Yates’s trinity, “…the leaf, the blossom, (and) the bole.” Like this tree, we strive down into the earth for our nutrients, sustenance, and stability; our grounding. And yet, we simultaneously aspire to the heavens for other necessities, environmental and spiritual. Thus, are we “upright” citizens of the planet, bodies, and minds supported by the earth's energy field, gravity. Hopefully, like the field-grown tree that I imagine, whose root structure reaches just as wide as its branches span, we are emblematic of this natural balance; we are figuratively speaking “as above, so below.” Likewise, our dog’s healthy coat is an external show of its internal health.

Our sustenance is what grows in the soil, or the beast that eats that which grows in the soil. Thus, we are made of these earthy components in a delicate balance. That which we eat of the earth provides our required macro and micro components: moisture, minerals, vitamins, protein, fat, and fibrous materials. Today, we will focus on the importance of minerals, their balance, protagonist and antagonist dynamics, and their electric nature.

The chemistry of life pertains to key nutrients highlighted in today’s blog: minerals. These minerals exist in fundamental chemistry states to help support life – macrominerals (i.e., calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, etc.) and trace minerals (i.e., copper, zinc, manganese, iron, etc.). As their name implies, macro minerals are needed daily in much higher concentrations than their more reactive cousins, the trace minerals. Trace minerals tend to be the most squirrely of all the elements. These important, precise, and reactive elements are pivotal for both the structural and catalytic functions of proteins in the body. Trace minerals, much like some people you may know, can be protagonists and antagonists, are required and yet toxic, and can be oxidized or reduced in chemical reactions. They can protect against dangerous free radicals (good!) or create harmful reactive oxygen species (bad!). Their importance in the body’s functions lies in their chemistry and electric charge, which we can parallel to our own daily life. The more charge and vibrancy we have each day, the more we can accomplish, sometimes manically, which at times, can be detrimental. This concept applies to these precious minerals. The key to understanding this is really based on the electron structure of protons, neutrons, and most importantly, the orbital fill of electrons. Have I lost you yet? How excitable are those valence electrons around a specific metal?

Let’s briefly dive into an example: Copper. Excitable little copper (Cu). The special characteristics of Cu allow it to drive redox chemistry by cycling between valence states (Cu1+¬ ® Cu2+) and its ability to form tight complexes with organic molecules, making it ideal to maintain structural and catalytic roles as a cofactor in various enzymes.1 This ability, in turn, assists in physiologic functions such as connective tissue formation and repair, iron metabolism, pigmentation, catecholamine synthesis, superoxide metabolism, mitochondrial energy production,2 cardiac functions, glucose and cholesterol metabolism,3 and immune function. You can imagine how not having this one little mineral in the appropriate amounts can disturb the overall balance of bodily functions. To complicate this dynamic further, other minerals can impact another mineral’s status. Hill and Matrone4 stated that elements that have similar chemical and physiologic properties will act biologically antagonistic to each other. This concept has provided the basis for an understanding of mineral-to-mineral interactions, which has established certain single element interactions but is severely limited on that basis.5 Minerals can have a direct role in antagonistic or protagonistic effects during uptake in the intestinal lumen, or through indirect biological mechanisms. For example, when mineral ratios are out of balance, such as with calcium and phosphorus, they can precipitate out of the solution. Minerals that look chemically like each other could interact competitively during uptake by cellular transport systems, or even might have the ability to replace other minerals as cofactors, rendering an enzyme nonfunctional, i.e., heavy metal poisoning.

Architect Louis Sullivan and later echoed by Frank Lloyd Wright wrote, “It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic, of all things physical and metaphysical, of all things human and all things super-human, of all true manifestations of the head, of the heart, of the soul, that the life is recognizable in its expression, that form ever follows function. This is the law.”

Our mission as scientists in this industry is to express health and happiness in the pets that we serve. Nutrition provides the structure for a healthy pet but that is not all. They must rest as well as exercise, play as well as work, and be kept safe but allowed curiosity and autonomy. Likewise, the empirical scientific imagination must be reconciled with the artistic imagination if we are to incorporate nature's genius into our lives and therefore the lives of beloved pets.


  1. Robinson, N.J., Winge, D.R. 2010. Copper Metallochaperones. Annu. Rev. Biochem. 79:537-62.
  2. Prohaska, J.R. Copper. 2006. In: Bowman, B.A., R.M. Russell, eds. Present Knowledge in Nutrition. Washington, DC: International Life Sciences Institute. P:458-70.
  3. Roeser, H.P., Lee, G.R., Nacht, S., Cartwright, G.E. 1970. The role of ceruloplasmin in iron metabolism. J. Clin. Invest. 49:2408-2417.
  4. Hill, C.H., Matrone G. 1970. Chemical parameters in the study of in vivo and in vitro interactions of transition elements. Fed. Prx. 29:1474-81.
  5. Fleet, J.C., Replogle, R., Salt, D.E. 2011. Systems genetics of mineral metabolism. J. Nutr. 141:520-525.

About the Author: Dr. Blaire Aldridge is BSM Partners' Director of Nutrition. Prior to this, she was one of the industry’s primary innovators in companion animal nutrition, leading teams at Nestle Purina to groundbreaking products and solutions, in addition to her innovations in Equine nutrition. Her PhD studies at Purdue University focused on mechanisms of nutrient absorption and gene expression before moving on to post-Doctoral work in Human Nutrition at Washington University Medical School. Blaire prides herself in the cultivation of a wide perspective, open conversation among peers, and above all, the integrity of purpose and profession.

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