Effect of Glycerides of Butyric, Caprylic and Capric Acids on Growth Performance in Weaned Pigs

The first weeks after weaning are critical stage for the piglets in terms of nutritional, environmental and physiological stresses leading to malabsorption coupled with reduced weight gain and increased morbidity and mortality rates.
calendar icon 10 February 2009
clock icon 4 minute read

In the past the dietary supplementation with antibiotics has been proven the efficient tool to compensate the post-weaning stress.

However, the public concerns about the potential development of resistant pathogen strains and general food safety resulted in antibiotics ban and consequently forced nutritionists to search for alternative growth promoters. Particular attention has been paid to the short (SCFA) and medium (MCFA) chain fatty acids, which are widely distributed in nature as a constituent of plants, animal tissues or common metabolites of microbial fermentation (Partanen and Mroz, 1999).

Butyric acid is produced along with other SCFA by microbial fermentation of dietary and endogenous residues in the lower gut of all animal species, however in the small intestine of pigs the formation of butyrate is low or absent (Knudsen et al., 2003; Claus et al., 2007). The free butyric acid is rapidly taken up from the gut lumen and it is the crucial oxidative fuel for the colonocytes (Roediger, 1980). Additionally, butyric acid has also been shown to have several cellular effects, i.e. influencing cell maturation and differentiation (Knudsen et al., 2003). Pig mucosa cells are renewed every 2-7 days. Mucosal integrity is ensured by an appropriate balance between the mitotic activity of stem cells in crypt area and apoptosis in the villi tips (Claus et al., 2007). According to some studies butyric acid stimulates mitosis and inhibits apoptosis of mucosal cells in the pigs’ colon, consequentially increases the vill length and crypt depth (Galfi and Bokori, 1990; Mentschel and Claus, 2003; Kotunia et al., 2004). Various studies confirmed bactericidal and stimulant effect of butyric acid on beneficial microflora in pigs (Leeson et al., 2005; Boyen et al., 2008) thus leading to improved animal performance (Galfi and Bokori, 1990; Kotunia et al., 2004).

Different reviews showed that approximately fifty percent of newborn piglets’ deaths were reported to occur within the first 3 days, because of energy insufficiency (Wieland et al., 1993a, b). To remedy the energy insufficiency medium chain triglycerides (MCT) can serve as a unique supplemental fuel source for piglets (Odle et al., 1991; Odle, 1997). Medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) which are the constituents of MCT having 6 to 12 carbon atoms are more soluble than long chain fatty acids and can diffuse through the enterocytes wall without the assistance of the carriers (Wieland et al., 1993a, b). MCT can be easily absorbed and oxidized by neonatal pigs improving blood glucose homeostasis (Lepine et al., 1989) and energy status of the animal (Benevenga et al., 1989). Moreover, MCFA have been shown to be bactericidal to numerous gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria (Nakai et al., 2002; Skrivanova et al., 2006).

SCFA and MCFA are rapidly metabolized by the microbiota of the gut and absorbed by the epithelial cells along the gastro-intestinal tract (Van Immerseel et al. 2006, Louis et al., 2007). The supplementation of protected fatty acids enables them to reach the further gastrointestinal tract compartments in pigs, where the colonization by pathogenic bacteria mainly takes places, and consequentially reduce the bacterial counts. Reduced colonization of the distal parts of the intestinal tract may in turn correlate with the reduced fecal shedding of bacteria and moreover, improved animal growth performance.

The aim of the study was to evaluate the effect of glycerides of butyric, caprylic and capric acids on the growth performance in weaned pigs.

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