Who cares about antioxidant nutrition?

Animal Nutrition Views

Ioannis Mavromichalis, Ph.D., gives his views on poultry, pig and dairy nutrition based on his experience as a nutrition consultant with clients around the world.

Who cares about antioxidant nutrition?

Oxidation is as old as death. Indeed, oxidative stress is considered to be a primary causative factor in aging and illness due to a failing immune system. Antioxidants abound in nature, but we have looked at them only as nutrients for the production of animal products — think vitamins E and C, plus selenium. We ignore polyphenols and carotenoids, although we are starting to think they might also be as important, but we still don’t know much about them.

Do natural ingredients contain enough antioxidants that we should not worry about them? If this is true, then why are supra-nutritional levels of vitamin E often so effective in treating problems associated with oxidative stress? Why has adding vitamin C been shown to have an effect when fed to animals that produce their own — and why has the same process failed in other trials? Clearly we are missing something. 

This something missing from nutritional science today is the chapter on antioxidant nutrition. I will be the first to admit I often thought this was another marketing hype to sell more additives. But, I cannot ignore the disparity among research reports — of equally high status — that contradict each other when it comes to supra-nutritional use of compounds that have a strong antioxidant status.

I do suggest we look deeper into this subject, and why not start by borrowing knowledge already available from the human nutrition scientific field. Perhaps our animals do not live long enough to suffer from old-age problems, nor do we exercise them as much (except for horses!). But, on the other hand, we keep them on a high metabolic plane at an astronomical rate of growth and productivity that is not in par with natural occurring compounds in their feeds. In other words, oxidative stress is high under commercial animal production conditions, and we can only benefit by looking deeper into this neglected issue.

Would you agree?