AmaranthAmaranth is a controversial ingredient claimed to be beneficial or detrimental depending upon the source. The FDA recommends that it not be used, while dog food companies that do utilize this ingredient claim it provides a health benefit with little or no risk. Please see the full article for more information and letters from both dog food companies and the FDA. is a controversial ingredient claimed to be beneficial or detrimental depending upon the source. The FDA recommends that it not be used, while dog food companies that do utilize this ingredient claim it provides a health benefit with little or no risk. Please see the full article for more information and letters from both dog food companies and the FDA.


In its simplest form, Amaranth (Amaranthus) is a type of annual or short-lived perennial plant with  Catkin-like cymes of densely packed flowers borne in summer or autumn. Although several species are often considered weeds, people around the world value amaranths as leaf vegetables, cereals, and ornamentals.


In human consumption amaranth greens, also called Chau lai (Hindi) and Chu or Chua (Kumauni), Chinese spinach, hinn choy or yin tsoi are a common leaf vegetable throughout the tropics and in many warm temperate regions.


Cooked amaranth leaves are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and folate; they are also a complementing source of other vitamins such as thiamine, niacin, and riboflavin, plus some dietary minerals including calcium, iron, potassium, zincZinc is an essential mineral believed to possess antioxidant properties, which may protect against accelerated aging of the skin and muscles of the body; studies differ as to its effectiveness. In pet foods is considered important in helping to support healthy skin, hair and mucous membranes. Zinc also helps speed up the healing process after an injury. It has antioxidant properties and is also beneficial to the body's immune system. Zinc also helps stimulate the action of more than 100 enzymes, and helps to stimulate the sense of smell, synthesize DNA and RNA, and promotes normal growth and development., copper, and manganese. Cooked amaranth grains are a complementing source of thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, and folate, and dietary minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and manganese - comparable to common grains such as wheat germ, oats and others.


Amaranth seeds contain lysine, an essential amino acid, limited in other grains or plant sources. Most fruits and vegetables do not contain a complete set of amino acidsChelated minerals are minerals that have been chemically combined with a molecule of protein, an amino acid or even a sugar “complex” (a polysaccharide) to form “complexes” which are more readily absorbable by the body., and thus different sources of protein must be used. Amaranth too is limited in some essential amino acids, such as leucine and threonine. Amaranth seeds are therefore promising complement to common grains such as wheat germ, oats, corn because these common grains are abundant sources of essential amino acids found to be limited in amaranth.


Amaranth may be a promising source of protein to those who are gluten sensitive, because unlike the protein found in grains such as wheat and rye, its protein does not contain gluten. According to a 2007 report, amaranth compares well in nutrient content with gluten-free vegetarian options such as buckwheat, corn, millet, wild rice, oats and quinoa.


Several studies have shown that like oats, amaranth seed or oil may be of benefit for those with hypertension and cardiovascular disease; regular consumption reduces blood pressure and cholesterol levels, while improving antioxidant status and some immune parameters.[29][30][31] While the active ingredient in oats appears to be water-soluble fiber, amaranth appears to lower cholesterol via its content of plant stanols and squalene.


Amaranth remains an active area of scientific research for both human nutritional needs and foraging applications. Over 100 scientific studies suggest a somewhat conflicting picture on possible anti-nutritional and toxic factors in amaranth, more so in some particular strains of amaranth. Lehmann, in a review article, identifies some of these reported anti-nutritional factors in amaranth to be phenolics, saponins, tannins, phytic acid, oxalates, protease inhibitors, nitrates, polyphenols and phytohemagglutinins. Of these, oxalates and nitrates are of more concern when amaranth grain is used in foraging applications. Some studies suggest thermal processing of amaranth, particularly in moist environment, prior to its preparation in food and human consumption may be a promising way to reduce the adverse effects of amaranth's anti-nutritional and toxic factors.


One of the reasons there has been recent interest in amaranth is because of its useful nutritional qualities. The grain has 12 to 17% protein, and is high in lysine, an essential amino acid in which cereal crops are low. Amaranth grown at Arlington, WI in 1978 had protein levels of 16.6 to 17.5%. The grain is high in fiber and low in saturated fats, factors which contribute to its use by the health food market. Recent studies have linked amaanth to reduction in cholesterol in laboratory animals.


Amaranth in Pet Food


In response to a letter sent to Dr. Marcia Larkins of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) regarding the inclusion of amaranth grain in pet food, the FDA stated the following:


"Pet food is considered an animal feed and is not differentiated from traditional animal feeds in federal regulations.  The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) (§402 and §403) requires that pet foods be pure and wholesome; contain no deleterious, harmful, or unapproved substances; and be truthfully labeled.  Labeling of animal feed is subject to federal and state regulations.  Labeling of animal feed must comply with the regulations in Title 21 Code of Federal Regulations Part 501 (21 CFR 501), and pet foods should follow the Pet Food and Specialty Pet Food Model Regulations published in the Official Publication (OP) of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).  It is the responsibility of the feed manufacturer/distributor to ensure it is in compliance with the applicable laws and requirements.

Ingredients used in an animal feed product must be listed on the label by their common or usual name in descending order of predominance by weight (21 CFR 501.4).  Ingredients used in an animal feed product must be either an approved food additive (21 CFR 573) or a generally recognized as safe (GRAS) substance (21 CFR 582 and 584).  CVM has used regulatory discretion and permitted ingredients defined in the AAFCO OP to be used in animal feed.  CVM recognizes the ingredient names in the AAFCO OP as the common or usual name.  Amaranth grain is not an approved food additive, GRAS substance, or defined in the AAFCO OP.  At this time, amaranth grain is considered an unapproved food additive when used in animal feed.

"You inquired about the safety of amaranth grain in animal feed.  Several anti-nutritive factors have been identified in grain amaranth that have resulted in reductions in animal performance.  Trypsin inhibitor activity, tannin, phytate, and saponins have been identified in amaranth.  The triterpene saponin concentration of amaranth seeds is 0.09-0.1% of dry matter and can rise to 0.18% during germination.  A toxicity study was conducted in hamsters and the lethal dose of saponins was calculated as 1100 mg/kg BW

"[Oleszek, W., M. Junkuszew, and A. Stochmal (1999).  "Determination and toxicity of saponins from Amaranthus cruentus seeds."  J Agric Food Chem 47:3685-3687].  CVM does not have safety information on the use of amaranth grain in pet food and has found evidence to support that at high levels of inclusion, amaranth grain has negative effects on animal performance. 

"Because safety concerns associated with feeding amaranth grain have been identified, CVM considers amaranth grain to be an unapproved food additive when used in an animal feed.  At this time, amaranth grain should not be included in any animal feed marketed in the United States.  If you wish to pursue the use of amaranth grain in animal feed, you will need to provide evidence that amaranth grain provides a nutritional benefit and that the intended use is safe for both the target species and for humans who may consume the edible animal products (meat, milk, and eggs) if used in livestock diets. "


Two response letters from Solid Gold explaining of its use of Amaranth in Pet Food:


Thank you for your inquiry,

I have also done quite a bit of research on saponins and amaranth as it applies to dog food safety. First of all, saponins are a large family of compounds (good and bad) and are present in many plants, not just amaranth. Most of them are destroyed by cooking and processing. Further, they are being investigated for their healthful benefits in people such as lowering cholesterol and increasing immune responses. I#%92m not quite sure what you concern is specifically perhaps you can clarify it for me. In my reading, I came across articles in which people suggested that saponins were responsible for bloat in cattle. “Bloat” in cattle is not cause by the same thing that causes it in dogs. In dogs, the medical term for bloat is called gastric dilatation-volvulus. This results from the stomach turning on itself (torsion) and creating a physical barrier so that gas cannot escape. Bloat in cattle is related to the microorganisms which grow in their gut to help them digest the roughage that they eat.

Amaranth is a good alternative to traditional grains and is a good source of fiber. It is arguably less allergenic than other grains used in dog food today such as corn and wheat.

The FDA does not update its approval list for animals as often as it does for humans, but there are allowances made for grains that are similar to those already on the list.

In short, I personally believe the benefits far outweigh the risks and I feed our products to my personal pets.

I hope this answers any concerns you have, please contact me if you are still concerned.

Best regards,

Solid Gold 


Second response:


The level of saponins doesn't tell much, since there are both detrimental and beneficial aspects to the compounds. The fact that the food has passed every test that AAFCO tells us we have to perform tells us that its safe. This is why we conduct feeding trials. We also have a veterinarian review our formulas to make sure that they are ok. Be aware that many plants are going to contain saponins, because they are so ubiquitous among plants. Generally, as far as I'm aware, allowances are made for plants that are in the same families as those on the list.

Best regards,

Solid Gold