April 01, 2020

Interpretive Summary: Functional nutrition in livestock and companion animals

Interpretive Summary: Functional nutrition in livestock and companion animals to modulate the immune response

By: Anne Wallace

Nutritional immunomodulation is a potential area of study that may lead to improvements in both animal welfare and productivity. Prebiotics, probiotics, phytogenics, dietary fiber or vitamins and minerals (in excess of basic metabolic requirements), for instance, are some examples of “functional foods,” which may affect change on animal health and immune function.

Currently, animal feed is formulated to optimize production. Studying how nutrition outside of basic metabolic requirements impacts health and immunity is therefore a needed area of study. In this March 2020 Journal of Animal Science article, the authors reviewed various nutrients and functional foods to determine how each might impact the immune systems of animals.

Vitamin E had immunomodulatory properties as an antioxidant, including improved vaccination response, supporting the potential for supplementation above minimum requirements. Vitamin D and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, in excess of current recommendations, had both anti-inflammatory and immune boosting potential. Zinc was potentially immunosuppressive in excess. Phytogenics largely boosted adaptive immunity and the antibody response to vaccines. The epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) in green tea increased Tregs, whereas probiotics and prebiotics modulated gut bacteria, which in turn have a variety of known and unknown impacts on inflammation, immunity and gut health.

Overall, this review supports the need for further study into nutritional immunology and how various nutrients or functional foods may change or modify the immune system of animals. Studying these areas could greatly impact both companion animal nutrition and livestock health and productivity. There is both need and justification for further studies on how functional nutrition impacts the immune system and its subsequent health outcomes in animals.