Oxalates and Oxalic Acids are in almost all foods, especially vegetables, fruits and greens. Many times, discussions on high oxalates only confuses people more than they were. I will try to keep this simple and easy to understand.
WHAT ARE THEY? Simply put, they are acids called Oxalic acids that occur naturally in many, many foods. Oxalic acid may combine with other minerals such as calcium, iron, sodium, magnesium or potassium and form less soluble salts that are known as OXALATES. Oxalates are also naturally in plants.
HOW DO THEY WORK? Oxalic acids bind with needed nutrients and pretty much makes the needed nutrients inaccessible to the body. The main nutrient that seems to be depleted is calcium.
CAN THEY DO DAMAGE? When fed in large amounts for periods of time, Yes. OXALIC ACID is a strong acid and in LARGE amounts can be fatal. OXALATES (remember they are formed from the Oxalic acids) can form little crystals that don't dissolve. These crystals have very sharp edges which can irritate the digestive organs (stomach and kidney)and lead to kidney stones.
Now...why would we feed these foods to our Iguana? As I said, they occur in almost all foods. The key to preventing problems is a diet that has a vast variety of healthy foods. Not all foods have the same amount of oxalates in them. Spinach is one of the highest. Its also a food that we recommend not feeding. When you feed a HUGE variety of foods, keeping the amount of high oxalate foods lower (see sample diet pages) in your iguanas diet, you run less risk of ever having a problem with oxalates and your iguana. If your iguana is fed foods such as spinach, chard,beet greens, parsley and other high oxalate foods only, then you run a very high chance that your iguana will suffer from kidney problems and MBD.(Remember, the oxalates bind with the calcium, and make it not usable.)
HOW DOES IT REMOVE CALCIUM? Oxalates don't remove calcium from the iguana. What they do is bind with the calcium in that food only. Using spinach as an example...Calcium is very high in spinach, but so is the oxalates. What happens is, the oxalates tie together the calcium in the spinach which doesn't allow the iguana to get the calcium from the spinach. The oxalates pass through the iguana, possibly staying in the kidneys. (remember, the crystals the oxalates form?)
As with all living creatures, a variety in the diet is essential!!! This cannot be stressed enough in the diet of iguanas.
Below are some links to more information about Oxalic Acids.
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