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Impact of bioactive substances on the gastrointestinal tract and performance of weaned piglets: a review

Lallès, J.P., Bosi, P., Janczyk, P., Koopmans, S.J., Torrallardona, D.
Animal 2009 v.3 no.12 pp. 1625-1643
piglets, weanlings, piglet feeding, weaning, dietary supplements, butyrates, amino acids, blood proteins, spray drying, cow colostrum, plant extracts, antimicrobial agents, animal performance, gastrointestinal system, digestibility, nutritive value, bioactive properties, risk assessment, adverse effects, Europe
The EU ban on in-feed antibiotics has stimulated research on weaning diets as a way of reducing post-weaning gut disorders and growth check in pigs. Many bioactive components have been investigated but only few have shown to be effective. Amongst these, organic acids (OA) have been shown to exert a bactericidal action mediated by non-dissociated OA, by lowering gastric pH, increasing gut and pancreas enzyme secretion and improving gut wall morphology. It has been postulated that they may also enhance non-specific immune responses and improve disease resistance. In contrast, relatively little attention has been paid to the impact of OA on the stomach but recent data show they can differently affect gastric histology, acid secretion and gastric emptying. Butyrate and precursors of butyric acid have received special attention and although promising results have been obtained, their effects are dependent upon the dose, treatment duration, initial age of piglets, gastrointestinal site and other factors. The amino acids (AA) like glutamine, tryptophan and arginine are supportive in improving digestion, absorption and retention of nutrients by affecting tissue anabolism, stress and (or) immunity. Glutamine, cysteine and threonine are important for maintaining mucin and permeability of intestinal barrier function. Spray-dried plasma (SDP) positively affects gut morphology, inflammation and reduces acquired specific immune responses via specific and a-specific influences of immunoglobulins and other bioactive components. Effects are more pronounced in early-weaned piglets and under poorer health conditions. Little interaction between plasma protein and antibiotics has been found, suggesting distinct modes of action and additive effects. Bovine colostrum may act more or less similarly to SDP. The composition of essential oils is highly variable, depending on environmental and climatic conditions and distillation methods. These oils differ widely in their antimicrobial activity in vitro and some components of weaning diets may decrease their activity. Results in young pigs are highly variable depending upon the product and doses used. These studies suggest that relatively high concentrations of essential oils are needed for beneficial effects to be observed and it has been assumed that these plant extracts mimic most of the effects of antibiotics active on gut physiology, microbiology and immunology. Often, bioactive substances protective to the gut also stimulate feed intake and growth performance. New insights on the effects of selected OA and AA, protein sources (especially SDP, bovine colostrum) and plant extracts with anti-bacterial activities on the gut are reported in this review.