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#1143947 - 07/12/11 01:14 PM Calcium concerns
JillMarie Offline
Serious Glideritis

Registered: 01/03/09
Posts: 7748
Loc: New Jersey
Once again I feel a need to revisit the subject of calcium in the sugar glider diet. While calcium is a large concern, it should not be the ONLY concern.

With any diet, please do NOT add any other supplements without first consulting with the person who wrote that particular diet. Too much calcium is just as bad, if not worse, than not enough.

Now to figure the calcium ratios, this is an "article" I wrote a while ago and thought I would re-post it here:

There is always so much talk on the forums about diets and ratios. I wanted to be able to explain the importance of this subject in one easy to understand article.

Due to a sugar gliders small bones the ratio is very important. Many health issues in "captive" gliders have been linked to poor diets, and especially too low calcium or too high phosphorous which can inhibit calcium absorption, or even to a diet too high in calcium. The ratio is the amount of calcium compared to the amount of phosphorous. One calcium "molecule" to one phosphorus molecule would be a 1:1 ratio. The sugar gliders really need a 2:1 ratio (2 calcium molecules to 1 phosphorus). However, and there are a lot of “however” in this subject, a ratio of at least 1.5:1 to 2:1 is considered by most to be acceptable. So don’t go crazy trying to stick to that exact number. In the wild the sugar glider diet, like any animal, will fluctuate with the seasons, so higher one day and lower the next is ok.

Now what measurement or unit are “they” referring to? I have seen information that says it is one MOLECULE, and other information that refers to AMOUNTS. Amount in weight? I do not know for sure. So when we speak of ratios, and most are using milligrams to calculate them, you also need to keep in mind that our calculations MAY be slightly flawed in that calcium does have a slightly different weight than phosphorous. In other words, one molecule of calcium has a different weight than one molecule of phosphorous, but since most of us do not have the means to calculate these numbers in our kitchens, we need to take a simplified route, using weights, and hope for the best.

One of my big concerns and my motive for writing this is I see people using the ratios of foods to figure out the ratio for a dinner serving of mixed foods. This results in an even more inaccurate ratio result! It is best to use the milligrams (amounts) of calcium and phosphorous in each food and use those figures for calculating ratios.

When scientists and nutritional experts get together and discuss the values of foods, they tend to use the term “dry weight” of foods for a specific nutrient. This is the amount of nutrient in a set measure of that food after all liquid has been removed. This is done to compare and accurately measure the amounts of nutrients in that food.

I personally wrote to Ellen Dierenfeld, who participated in that diet study many moons ago, to ask her professional opinion on some of the articles I had written for my own websites. She did mention the use of “dry weights” to compare foods, but also mentioned that for the average owner this need not be a concern, as the sugar gliders are eating the food as put in front of them. So if a given food has a set amount of calcium in that food, and all other aspects of the diet balance out, basically that is the amount of calcium the sugar glider has ingested (but not necessarily absorbed!).

HOWEVER, calcium absorption is affected by other nutrients in the diet! Vitamin C, vitamin D, and iron can all have an impact on the amount of calcium that is absorbed. So can the amount of oxalates in any given food. So AMOUNTS of calcium may be adequate, but if there is too much iron, or not enough vitamin D in the meal that night, they may not be absorbing enough calcium. All this affects our beloved ratios as well.

While the ratio of calcium to phosphorous IS important, it can also be misleading. So one can not create a diet by ratios alone! In the struggle to provide a better ratio it is possible to end up feeding too much calcium in the diet, and that can have as many health issues as not enough. Perhaps even worse as the issues with not enough calcium can be solved by adding more, but if giving too much and the organs calcify, there is nothing to be done for them.

Some excess nutrients will be flushed from the body as waste. Vitamin C is one. Calcium is not. Excess calcium in the body will affect the organs eventually causing them to “calcify” or shut down.

Calcium:phosphorous ratios are not the only important element in a sugar glider diet. There is a ton of other nutrients to worry about. There needs to be balance in vitamins and minerals, as well as providing fiber, protein, low fat, etc. I feel it is best to stay away from as many “processed” foods as possible. Restrict foods with added sugars, fillers, preservatives, food colorings and such.

NOW, how to properly calculate ca:p ratios:
You also need to keep in mind that 1 cup of blueberries has the same ratio as ½ cup of blueberries. As ratio is a relationship between 2 components, not an actual amount of something. So 1 cup of blueberries has a ratio of .6:1 and so does a ton of blueberries.

Our sample dinner menu: (amounts in milligrams)
Blueberries: 1 cup ca= 9, p= 15 for a ratio of .6:1
Papaya: 1 cup ca= 33, p =7 for a ratio of 4.71:1
Raspberries: 1 cup ca= 27, p= 15 for a ratio of 1.8:1

Using ratios if 1 cup of each is used add all ratios:
.6 +4.71+1.8=7.11 then divide by 3=2.37 so the ratio for equal amount of each is 2.37:1 which is a pretty good ratio, if you use the average ratio method. However, if done the CORRECT way using the amounts of calcium and phosphorous:
9+33+27=69 for the calcium and 15+7+15= 37 for the phosphorous which gives us a ratio of 1.86:1

Close right? But still a significant difference. The problem really shows up when different amounts of foods are used. If you use the average ratio method you will still get an average ratio of 2.37:1 because the ratios for foods do not change with the amounts of foods used.

So let us change our recipe slightly. If we use ½ cup of papaya, the amounts of calcium and phosphorous change for the papaya to ca=16.5 and p=3.5 (half the amount of each), changing the totals to 9+16.5+27=52.5 for calcium and 15+3.5+15=33.5 for the phosphorous which is a ratio of 1.57:1

This is now a significant difference! You can see where using the ratios of foods to figure ratios of meals can be very misleading. It is important to use the amounts of calcium and phosphorous in each measure of food to accurately figure out the ratios. When using other foods, you will get significantly different values.

To figure the actual ratio of a given food, or combination of foods: simply add the values for the calcium. Then add the value for the phosphorous. Divide the total calcium value by the total phosphorous value. The answer is the “:1” ratio. Using the 1 cup of blueberries as an example: calcium is 9, phosphorous is 15. 9 divided by 15 is .6, so the ratio is .6:1

Shooting for anything between 1:1 to 2:1 is ideal. With the optimum amount being closer to 1.7:1. But again, you need to remember that other nutrients in each food WILL affect the amount of calcium absorption. Possibly making the ratio an invalid point anyway. It has been theorized that acacia gum helps the body absorb more calcium from the diet, but so far has only been shown in a study with rats and not sugar gliders.

Let me also say that in my opinion, in choosing a sugar glider diet it is important to use a diet they LIKE! You can put the best diet around in front of your sugar gliders, and if they wont EAT it, what good does it do? I also feel that with captive sugar gliders it is very important to offer a large variety of foods in the diet.

I hope this helped!
:grey: Bosom Buddy Creations:grey:
^website link wink

Remember that God Loves You!

#1143958 - 07/12/11 01:41 PM Re: Calcium concerns [Re: JillMarie]
yiyo Offline
Serious Glideritis

Registered: 06/08/11
Posts: 7560
Loc: Long Island, NY
I can't agree more with the last sentence of that post! You can make yourself crazy figuring the perfect ratios, but if they don't eat every bit of food in equal amounts that you figured your ratios upon, the ratio is going to change anyway. Variety is key! thumb

"Moving on is a simple thing, what it leaves behind is hard."

#1143986 - 07/12/11 02:44 PM Re: Calcium concerns [Re: JillMarie]

I don't even stress over ratios. I feed my diet as written. I think if people did that, they'd be less likely to have a heart attack over this stuff. It's not worth getting sick over.

#1143991 - 07/12/11 02:53 PM Re: Calcium concerns [Re: ]
Dwiizie Offline
Glider Guardian

Registered: 05/09/11
Posts: 832
Loc: Richmond, VA
Originally Posted By: Megs
I don't even stress over ratios. I feed my diet as written. I think if people did that, they'd be less likely to have a heart attack over this stuff. It's not worth getting sick over.

Dwiizie, Mommy to
Passion, Posie, Paige & Pixie
:grey: :wfb: :grey: :leu:

#1144001 - 07/12/11 03:04 PM Re: Calcium concerns [Re: JillMarie]
CandyOtte Offline
Serious Glideritis

Registered: 09/03/08
Posts: 5138
Loc: Lutz Florida
Please also keep in mind that it is not the goal to have a 'perfect' ratio each and every day. It is important to maintain an average ratio over a period of time between 1.5:1 and 2:1.

If the foods you combine today offer a ratio of 1.3:1 and tomorrow the combination you feed is 2.5:1 There is no need to panic because the ratio is "off".

If you combine the calcium and phosphorus amounts in the diet you choose to feed your gliders for a week with the amounts of calcium and phosphorus in the fruits and vegetables you select for that same week and the over all average ratio for all the foods offered is between 1.5:1 and 2:1 - you are feeding your gliders well.

Calcium deficiency occurs over time, as do problems cause by excess calcium. One day now and then that is too high or too low in the amount of calcium, or the ratio, is not a cause for concern.
Candy Otte
& the Glider Kids
Sassy, Corky, Mehitabel & Missy
Wacco, Yacco, & Dot
Mindy, Kanobles, Elmo, & Chipper

#1144089 - 07/12/11 07:52 PM Re: Calcium concerns [Re: JillMarie]
Meg_n_Von Offline
Glideritis Anonymous

Registered: 05/15/09
Posts: 12099
Loc: Vulcan, MO
Good topic!
Megan & LaVaughn

Sugar Exotics

:bb: Kira :grey: Sadie - Neal :wfb: Pip - Violet :rtmo: Logan - Charli - Tyler - Seamus :plat: Chloe - Cas :leu: Boone

RIP David
Your life was short lived, but your memory will last forever.

#1144092 - 07/12/11 08:07 PM Re: Calcium concerns [Re: Meg_n_Von]
Gemini67 Offline
Glider Lover

Registered: 02/08/11
Posts: 539
Loc: Capital Region, NY USA
GREAT write up Jill Marie - thank you!

~ Lucky to have rescued all of my :grey: "silly goosies" and my kitties Jani Rose and Artie-Choke

#1144244 - 07/13/11 01:01 AM Re: Calcium concerns [Re: Gemini67]
Gizmogirl Offline
Glideritis Anonymous

Registered: 07/31/09
Posts: 13454
Loc: South Africa
Originally Posted By: Gemini67
GREAT write up Jill Marie - thank you!

Casper & Liezl
:grey:Gizzy, Boesman, Muchu, Kiamon, Sky & Boog:grey:
A glider's eyes have the power to speak a great language

RIP Sugar 2009 & Kaida 2013


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