Involved in over 30 metabolic reactions, vitamins are essential for animal growth, health, reproduction and performance.1 But, for animals to appropriately utilize essential vitamins for metabolism, effective vitamin absorption is critical. When considering vitamin absorption, factors like gut health, vitamin form and vitamin solubility can significantly influence absorption. To maximize vitamin absorption, understanding how these factors can influence vitamin availability for absorption is key.
Intestinal enterocytes in the gut epithelium form villi that increase surface area of the intestine allowing for increased nutrient absorption. However, damage to the villi caused by intestinal stressors – feed toxins, disease pathogens, heat stress, restricted feeding, weaning, etc. – can compromise the integrity of the intestinal barrier, thereby limiting absorption of important nutrients, including vitamins.2,3
Mycotoxins, for example, have been shown to modulate expression of nutrient transport proteins, increase enterocyte turnover and decrease villi surface area.4 Impaired absorption of nutrients – especially fats – is also tied to intestinal epithelia damage from parasitic infections, like Eimeria in poultry.2,5 Maintenance of a healthy intestinal tract is therefore critical for vitamin absorption.
The bioavailability, quality, and stability of a vitamin play an indirect role in vitamin uptake. Additionally, the type of vitamin – water-soluble or fat-soluble – is tied to the molecular mechanisms involved in vitamin absorption. Unlike water-soluble vitamins which can easily enter the blood stream, fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) gain entry to intestinal cells via formation of mixed micelles with dietary fats.
To ensure animals receive essential vitamins, producers can use protected vitamin forms and/or apply antioxidants to improve vitamin retention in feed. But, when it comes to maximizing fat-soluble vitamin uptake, the effectiveness of the fat digestion and absorption process plays a key role.
Digestion and absorption of fats and fat-soluble nutrients is a complicated process with three major steps: emulsification, hydrolysis and absorption (Figure 1).
Similar to dietary fats, fat-soluble vitamins must first be emulsified in lipid droplets. These lipid emulsions are then incorporated into micelles which act as carriers for fat-soluble nutrients to gain access to the intestinal wall. Absorption of micelles – and their vitamin cargo – through the intestinal wall is mediated by membrane transport proteins.6,7
Smaller, more stable micelles require less energy for intestinal absorption and are therefore more easily transported into intestinal cells. Improving emulsification, therefore, has a significant impact on efficiency of vitamin absorption.
The bioavailability of fat-soluble vitamins can be increased with the inclusion of a nutritional emulsifier – or biosurfactant – in the final feed. Alongside bile salts, biosurfactants work to form smaller, more stable oil-in-water emulsion droplets that are more effectively hydrolyzed and absorbed than with bile alone.5
Figure 1. Process of fat and fat-soluble nutrient digestion and absorption.
Use of biosurfactants – polysorbates, lecithin, lysolecithins, etc. – can especially be beneficial for young animals which have limited ability to digest and absorb dietary fats and fat-soluble nutrients, like vitamins, carotenoids and pigments.5 For example, lysolecithins have been shown to improve vitamin E uptake in eggs8 as well as enhance collagen deposition and increase jejunum villus length in broilers.9
Maximizing vitamin absorption is key to ensure your animals get the vitamins they need for optimal health and performance. To optimize conditions for vitamin uptake, using protected vitamins and managing gut health are key. Additionally, improving emulsification can lead to more efficient fat-soluble vitamin uptake. Use of a lysolecithin-based nutritional emulsifier like LYSOFORTE® can help producers to optimize digestion and absorption of fats and fat-soluble nutrients thereby:
For more information on how LYSOFORTE® can help your animals maximize vitamin absorption, visit Kemin Animal Nutrition and Health at kemin.com/lysoforte-us.
1Marks, J. 1979. A guide to the vitamins: their role in health and disease. Published by MTP, Medical and Technical Publishing Co., Ltd., England.
2Mishra, B. and Jha, R. (2019). Oxidative stress in the poultry gut: potential challenges and interventions. Front. Vet. Sci., 6:60.
3Lauridsen, C. 2019. From oxidative stress to inflammation: redox balance and immune system. Poultry Science, 98:4240-4246.
4Grenier, B. and Applegate, T.J. (2013). Modulation of intestinal functions following mycotoxin ingestion: Meta-analysis of published experiments in animals. Toxin, 5:396-430.
5Ravindran, V. et al. (2016). Fats in poultry nutrition: digestive physiology and factors influencing their utilization. Animal Feed Science and Technology, 213:1-21.
6Reboul, E. (2013). Absorption of vitamin A and carotenoids by the enterocyte: focus on transport proteins. Nutrients, 5:3563-3581.
7Reboul, E. (2019). Vitamin E intestinal absorption: regulation of membrane transport across the enterocyte. IUBMB Life, 71(4):416-423.
8The effect of LYSOFORTE® on Vitamin E deposition in broiler breeder eggs in a commercial facility, TD-10-00399.
9Brautigan, D.L. et al. 2017. Lysolecithin as feed additive enhances collagen expression and villus length in the jejunum of broiler chickens. Poultry Science, 96:2889-2898.
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