Role of Antioxidants in Poultry
Authors: Aamrapali Bhimte*1, Neeti Lakhani2, L. Kipjen Singh3, V.P. Maurya5, Anjali Khare2, Preeti Lakhani1, Vandana Yadav4, Sonika Ghrewal1, Adesh Kumar4
1Animal Physiology Division, National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal-132001, Haryana, India.
2Animal Nutrition Division, National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal-132001, Haryana, India.
3Animal Reproduction, Gynaecology and Obstetrics, National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal-132001, Haryana, India.
4Animal Genetics and Breeding Division, National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal-132001, Haryana, India.
5Division of Physiology and climatology ICAR-Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Izzatnagar-243122, U.P., India.
*Corresponding author: Aamrapali Bhimte


Diet plays a pivotal role in health aspect and prevention of various diseases in poultry. There are various dietary factors but among all of them antioxidant play important role for animal survival, improve health status, prevention from various diseases reproductive and productive performance. This is largely because of the detrimental effects of free radicals and toxic products of their metabolism on various metabolic processes. Antioxidant molecule which involved in the prevention from detrimental effect from free radicals, cellular damage, toxic product of their metabolism, aging and variety of diseases.

(1) Introduction

In poultry, diet and feed supplements plays a major role in health maintenance and prevention of various diseases. In feed antioxidants play a special role for survival, maintenance of animal health, productive and reproductive performance. Antioxidant prevents feed from adverse effects due to the formation of free radicals and toxic products of their metabolism on various metabolic processes.

Oxidation is an enzymatic catalytic process occurring mainly in fats. Fat and Fatty acids are long aliphatic chains which contain carbon and hydrogen molecule in there structure. in foods fatty acids carbon chain vary in length ,due to this variation they are mainly found in two form on the basis of degree of saturation saturated and unsaturated. In foods, fatty acids are mainly found in lipid complexes called triglycerides.

(2) Oxidation of food products

Oxidation process occure in food as a result of these, primary product free peroxide radicals are formed. In further stage, lipid breaks down and oxidative rancidity develops. Food containing unsaturated fatty acids is of major concern in the poultry food industry. Rancidity developed in unsaturated fatty acids by oxidation is directly related to economic, nutritional, flavor, safety and storage problems and decrease feed palatability.

(3) Oxidative stress

Free radicals also called Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) are products formed during metabolic processes in body cells. These highly reactive, free radical containing free unpaired oxygen molecule, these free atom react with intra- and extracellular molecules and damage the cell viability, function and structure. To avoid this cell damage, cells contain naturally present antioxidant mechanisms. The balance between antioxidant and ROS is essential for functional and structural integrity of cell , if these balance is disturb due to more production of free radicals the oxidative stress condition develop, it deteriorate the health of poultry. Antioxidant essential for poultry health aspect. Vitamin E is very sensitive to oxidation reaction, due to deficiency of these encephalomalacia, exudative diathesis, muscular dystrophy and tissue necrosis condition develop in chicken, and it decreases the fertility and hatchability (Cabel etal., 1988).

(4) Role of antioxidant in poultry production

Antioxidants are molecules that interact with free radicals and terminate their oxidative reaction. Although in body antioxidant system present that scavenges free radicals and prevent from cellular damage.

  • Antioxidant system found in animal in 2 forms.
(A)Enzymatic antioxidants : superoxide dismutase (SOD), glutathione peroxidase (GPx), catalase (CAT

(B)Non-Enzymatic antioxidants: vitamin E, vitamin A, Selenium, vitamin C etc

  • Different levels of antioxidant Defence in animal cells
First level of defence Prevention of radical formation
Second level of defence Prevention and restriction of chain formation and propagation
Third level of defence Excision and repair of damaged parts of molecules
(5) Mechanism of action of Antioxidants in Body Cell

(A)Enzymatic antioxidants

1) Superoxide dismutase (SOD)

Catalyze the dismutation of the toxic superoxide (O2) radical into either ordinary molecular oxygen (O 2) or hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) (Aitken, 1991).

Cu2+-SOD + O2 → Cu +-SOD + O2

Cu+-SOD + O2 + 2H+ → Cu2+-SOD + H2O2

2) Catalase (CAT)

Catalyzes the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide to water and oxygen.

2 H2O2 → 2 H2O + O2

3) Glutathione peroxidase (GPx)

2GSH + H2O2 GS–SG + 2H2O

1) Maintains the intracellular redox status

2) Prevents leakage of intracellular enzyme and damage of intracellular molecules.

(B)Non-Enzymatic antioxidant

These are the Lipid and water-soluble antioxidants. These molecules specially vitamin E and β-Carotene are able to scavenge free radicals (Costantini etal., 2009). There are a lot of trace minerals like selenium, zinc, ceruloplasmin etc. part of the antioxidant system. These antioxidant and micronutrient essential but body cannot synthesize this micronutrient so they must be supplied in the poultry diet. Selection of an antioxidant and their optimum dose in diet is based on its effective oxidation property, no residual or harmful effect and ultimately in the animal’s intestinal tract and in carcasses for consumption. Antioxidants added to an animal’s diet should have the following properties:

  • They should prevent the feed from lipid-peroxidation and any other autoxidation reaction
  • They have no any dose dependent toxicity, their use should be safe.
  • Effective at low concentration
  • Should be cheap in economical practical
1) Vitamin E

Vitamin E known as fertility vitamin, essential for good reproductive performance. The term “tocopherol” derives from the Greek words “tokos” (childbirth) and “pherein” (to bear). The alpha tocopheral form possesses the most activity. The world health organization and others have established that 1 mg of dl-alpha tocopherol acetate equals 1IU vitamin E.

  • The relative activities of various forms:
Milligram Equal
d-alpha tocopherol 1.49 IU
d-alpha tocopheryl acetate 1.36 IU
d-alpha tocopheryl acid succinate 1.21 IU
dl-alpha tocopherol 1.10 IU
dl-alpha tocopheryl acetate 1.00 IU
dl-alpha tocopheryl succinate 0.89 IU
(2) Selenium

Generally ™ Selenium is scarce and it is worldwide distributed element. In earth it is found in 0.09ppm, making it the 66th in order of abundance. In mostly soil Se content is in 0.1 and 0.2 ppm range. ™

  • Requirement
The requirement of selenium is depends up on the vitamin E content of feedstuffs.

Layers Broilers Breeders
Chick Grower Layer Broiler starter Broiler finisher Breeder
Selenium(mg/kg) 0.15 0.10 0.10 0.15 0.15 0.15
(NRC 1994)

  • Synergistic effect of vitamin and selenium
Glutathione peroxidase activity depends upon the availability of selenium. Selenium act with cystein which delivered directly in the diet. The resulting form, selenocysteine, is the active antioxidant portion of glutathione peroxidase. Glutathione peroxidase can stop free radical attack, their action on water based areas of the cell that would otherwise go on to attack lipid –based areas(eg., the cell membrane),it tends to spare vitamin E by reducing its workload. Vitamin E conversion of free radicals prevents leaks or complete breakdown of cell membrane, it spares glutathione peroxidase from having to convert free radicals that would otherwise invade cell.this co-operation is the basis for the so-called sparing effects of vitamin E and selenium.

  • Dietary levels in feed stuffs
Rich source of vitamin E are vegetables oils, whole cereals, eggs, liver, legumes and most green plants. Green forages, especially alfalfa, are very good source. Vitamin E is highly sensitive to heat, oxygen, moisture and oxidizing fat. The heaviest losses of vitamin E occure in high moisture feed.

  • Vitamin and Selenium- Source
Feed Se content(mg/kg)
Alfalfa 0.32-0.37
Barley grain 0.11-0.22
Fish meal 1.4-2.4
Sunflower meal 2.13
Wheat(hard, winter grain) 0.45
Soyabean seed 0.11
Yeast 0.98-1.08
(6) Role of antioxidant in coccidiosis

Avian coccidiosis is a parasitic disease of poultry, caused by genus Eimeria, it is the characterized by massive destruction of the epithelial cells, reduced in weight gain, reduction in egg production and bloody diarrhea (Dalloul and Lillehoj, 2005; Razzaq etal., 2011). During coccidiosis poultry suffer from stress condition and develop oxidative stress due to excess formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) for phagocytosis, killing of microorganism in body. These ROS generation prevented by antioxidant supply Naidoo et al. (2008).

The use of antioxidant as anticoccidial remedies, therefore it act as alternate in the control of coccidiosis.antioxidant rich plant extract play special role because use of synthetic compounds in disease prevention develop disease resistance and drug residues effect(Ahn et al., 2002: Abbas et al., 2011a; 2012a). Antioxidant is substitute of synthetic drugs, they alleviate the difficulties related to use of synthetic drugs because they are natural, not develop any resistance, effective and safe. The importance of oxidative stress during coccidiosis infection and the role of various antioxidants in reducing the harmful effects of oxidation with ultimate objective of controlling coccidiosis.

(7) Conclusion

Chicken are exposed to various stress condition like environmental changes, disease outbreak, and nutritional etc. Due to these oxidative stress developed and free radicals attack produced detrimental effect and that is why an antioxidant system developed in cell to prevent from cellular and molecular damage in body. Specially vitamin E and selenium play important role and improve the health status of animal, increase production and reproduction in poultry.

(8) References

1) Ahn J, IU Grun and LN Fernando, 2002. Antioxidant properties of natural plant extract containing polyphenolic compounds in cooked ground beef. J Food Sci, 67: 1364-1369.

2) Aitken, R.J., Irvine, D.S. and Wu, F.C. (1991) Prospective analysis of spermoocyte fusion and reactive oxygen species generation as criteria for the diagnosis of infertility. Am. J. Obstet. Gynecol., 164, 542-551.

3) Cabel, M.C., P.W. Waldroup, W.D. Shermer and D.F. Calabotta. 1988. Effects of ethoxyquin feed preservative and peroxide level on broiler performance. Poultry Sci. 67:7125-1730.

4) Costantini D and AP Moller, 2009. Does immune response cause oxidative stress in birds? A meta-analysis. Comp Biochem Physiol, 153: 339-344.

5) Dalloul RA and HS Lillehoj, 2005. Recent advances in immunomodulation and vaccination strategies against coccidiosis. Avian Dis, 49: 1-8.

6) Razzaq A, T Ali, A Saghir, S Arshad and A Cheema, 2011. Training needs assessment of poultry farmers in tehsil Faisalabad. J Anim Plant Sci, 21: 629-631.

7) Naidoo V, LJ McGaw, SP Bisschop, N Duncan and JN Eloff, 2008. The value of plant extracts with antioxidant activity in attenuating coccidiosis in broiler chickens. Vet Parasitol, 153: 214-219.

8) NRC. 1994. Nutrient Requirements of Poultry. 9th rev. ed. Natl. Acad. Press, Washington, DC.

9) Abbas RZ, Z Iqbal, A Khan, ZUD Sindhu, JA Khan, MN Khan and A Raza, 2012. Options for integrated strategies for the control of avian coccidiosis. Int J Agric Biol, 14: 1014-1020.

10) Abbas RZ, Z Iqbal, D Blake, MN Khan and MK Saleemi, 2011. Anticoccidial drug resistance in fowl coccidia: the state of play revisited. World's Poult Sci J, 67: 337-350.

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