March 21, 2019

Interpretive Summary: Postweaning supplementation of vitamin E in pig diets

Interpretive Summary: Dietary vitamin E affects small intestinal histomorphology, digestive enzyme activity, and the expression of nutrient transporters by inhibiting proliferation of intestinal epithelial cells within jejunum in weaned piglets.

By: Anne Wallace

During the postweaning period, changes to gut health can detrimentally affect piglets’ ability to digest and absorb nutrients in feed. The reasons for this occurrence are multifaceted, although inflammation and oxidative stress are thought to contribute to these changes.

In this paper published in the March 2019 Journal of Animal Science, researchers studied the potential benefits of supplementing postweaning pig feed with vitamin E (VE), a known antioxidant, which has not been studied well in vivo. The authors hypothesized that pig feed supplemented with VE would improve piglet gut health and absorption of nutrients from feed.

A total of thirty weaned piglets were fed one of five different diets for 14 days. Each diet was formulated to meet piglet nutrition needs, with VE added, as follows: (1) negative control with no added VE, (2) 16 IU, (3) 32 IU, (4) 80 IU, and (5) 160 IU of VE. Blood samples and bowel tissue were collected at the end of the study. Average daily gain (ADG), average daily feed intake (ADFI), and gain to feed ratio (G:F) were also calculated to measure piglet performance. 

No significant difference in the performance of piglets fed VE supplemented feed compared to the control group were noted. There were, however, significant changes observed in the second portion of the small intestine (jejunum) in piglets fed VE supplemented feed, compared to the control. Of these differences were a reduction in jejunum crypt depth, villus width, and epithelial cell proliferation, with the most notable difference in the 80 IU group.

The results of this study suggest that feed supplemented with VE does not appear to affect postweaning piglet growth performance but does appear to alter jejunal structure and cell proliferation. Whether these changes may help to lessen the effects of postweaning stress on piglet gut health needs to be studied in more detail. In order to better understand how VE supplemented feed (particularly at 80 IU) may impact gut health, more in-depth studies on the effects of VE supplementation on piglet jejunum and possibly also gut microbiota are justified.

To view the article, visit the Journal of Animal Science.