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J Anim Sci. 2005 Jun;83(6):1274-86.

Influence of supplementation of all-rac-alpha-tocopheryl acetate preweaning and vitamin C postweaning on alpha-tocopherol and immune responses of piglets.

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  • 1Department of Animal Health, Welfare and Nutrition, Research Centre Foulum, Denmark. Charlotte.Lauridsen@agrsci.dk


This study was designed to test whether dietary maternal supplementation of all-rac-alpha-tocopheryl acetate during lactation and dietary vitamin C supplementation after weaning could increase the alpha-tocopherol status pre- and postweaning and the immune responses of piglets postweaning. The experiment involved 12 crossbred sows that were fed increasing levels of all-rac-alpha-tocopheryl (70, 150, and 250 IU/kg, as-fed basis) during lactation. After weaning (d 28 of age), litters were divided into two groups that were supplemented with or without vitamin C (500 mg/kg of feed, as-fed basis). Milk and blood samples were obtained from the sows during lactation. Pigs were bled at 4, 16, 28, 35, 42, and 49 d of age. Liver, heart, muscle, and s.c. adipose tissues were collected (on 28, 35, 42, and 49 d of age) and analyzed for alpha-tocopherol. On the same days, alveolar macrophages of the lungs were collected, and analyzed for the concentration of alpha-tocopherol and its stereoisomer composition, fatty acid composition, and release of prostaglandin E2, leukotriene B4, and thromboxane B2. Increasing dietary all-rac-alpha-tocopheryl acetate concentration increased the concentration of alpha-tocopherol in plasma (P = 0.02) and milk (P = 0.007) of sows, and the sow milk concentrations of alpha-tocopherol and vitamin A were greater on d 2 of lactation than later on during lactation. The plasma concentration of alpha-tocopherol in piglets decreased from d 4 to later on during suckling (P < 0.001) and again as the postweaning period progressed (P < 0.001). When lipid-standardized, plasma alpha-tocopherol was increased in piglets of sows fed 250 IU of all-rac-alpha-tocopheryl acetate compared with other sow-groups (P = 0.005). At 28 d of age, alpha-tocopherol concentrations in tissues were increased with supplementation of the high dietary all-rac-alpha-tocopheryl acetate levels to the sows; however, after weaning, a decrease in alpha-tocopherol concentration in most tissues (except liver) was observed, but the decrease tended to be less in the muscle (P = 0.099) and adipose tissue (P = 0.11) of piglets suckling sows fed 150 and 250 IU of all-rac-alpha-tocopheryl acetate. Vitamin C supplementation after weaning increased liver alpha-tocopherol (P = 0.01) and serum immunoglobulin M concentration (P = 0.04), and vitamin C supplementation increased the proportion of the RRR-alpha-tocopherol (P = 0.03) at the expense of the RRS-stereoisomer form (P = 0.05) of alpha-tocopherol in alveolar macrophages of the piglets. In conclusion, this study on maternal all-rac-alpha-tocopheryl acetate and postweaning vitamin C supplementation suggests a nutritional strategy for increasing alpha-tocopherol status and immune responses of weaned piglets.

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