January 20, 2020

Interpretive Summary: Using microencapsulated thymol in weaned pigs

Interpretive Summary: Evaluation of lipid matrix microencapsulation for intestinal delivery of thymol in weaned pigs

By: Anne Wallace

Alternatives to antibiotics are greatly needed to benefit the growth and intestinal health of farm animals. In this study published in the January 2020 issue of Translational Animal Science, researchers evaluated microencapsulated thymol, a plant-derived essential oil (EO), for its stability and bioavailability in piglet feed.

Exhibiting both antimicrobial and antioxidative properties, EOs may benefit the digestive health and growth performance of farm animals. However, the delivery of EOs to the lower intestinal tract can be problematic when it is lost in feed due to its volatility or absorbed prematurely in the upper digestive tract. Microencapsulation may therefore protect and enhance EO delivery, however, research evaluating the potential benefit of microencapsulation is lacking in animals.

In this study, microencapsulation of EO improved the stability and bioavailability of thymol for piglets. Pelleting of feed did not affect total thymol. Encapsulated thymol was also stable in the in vitro simulated pig gastric fluid and intestinal fluid models, with delivery to the gastrointestinal tract in vivo also showing a “slow release” with the authors reporting nearly 42% of thymol reaching the mid-jejunum.

Overall, this study suggests that microencapsulation of thymol may improve both its stability and bioavailability. Expanded studies evaluating the effects of encapsulation on different EOs and its subsequent impact on piglet health (e.g. rate of diarrhea, growth performance, intestinal barrier integrity) may be warranted.