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Effects of long term feeding of Quillaja saponins on sex ratio, muscle and serum cholesterol and LH levels in Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus (L)).

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  • 1Department of Animal Nutrition and Aquaculture, Institute for Animal Production in the Tropics and Subtropics, University of Hohenheim (480), D 70593, Stuttgart, Germany.


Seventeen-day-old Nile tilapia fry were fed a standard diet (C) or diets containing 50-700 mg kg(-1) Quillaja saponin (QS) extract (groups S50, S150, S300, S500 and S700). After the first 8 weeks, 30 randomly selected tilapia from each of the treatments were placed in separate aquaria and fed the standard diet without saponins from then on (these were designated S50/C, S150/C, S300/C, S500/C and S700/C). The fish grew from an initial average weight of approximately 30 mg to a final average weight of 79 g during the 6-month feeding period. The difference between the average weight of C-fed tilapia and the treatment with the highest average weight after 6 months was 53.5%. The sex ratio of tilapia in the saponin-fed groups deviated from the normal 50:50 male:female ratio, with the S700 group showing a significantly higher number of males. Quillaja saponin stimulated LH release from dispersed tilapia pituitary cells in vitro. This effect was abolished in the presence of dilute calf serum. Serum LH values did not show any diet-dependent trend in either male or female tilapia in vivo. In both continuously saponin-fed and only-initially saponin-fed groups, the average serum (but not muscle) cholesterol levels in males showed an increasing trend (R(2) values of 0.62 and 0.69) with increasing dietary saponin level. It was concluded that dietary QS has the potential to change the sex-ratio in favour of males. More investigations are required to determine the mechanism of action and the optimum dietary level of QS for maximum effects.

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