Nutritional disorders are a lot more common than many people realize. These disorders can lead to illness, fertility problems, digestion issues, and more.
Nutritional disorders can be prevented through the intake of adequate amounts of nutrients. These include macronutrients like proteins and carbohydrates and micronutrients like vitamins and minerals to keep farm animal nutrition high.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is stored in fatty tissue and converted to the active form by cytochrome P450 enzymes in liver cells. Circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) is commonly measured in humans and animals as a biomarker of exposure to vitamin D because it has a long half-life and does not decrease in the presence of parathyroid hormone and calcium and phosphate.
Animals need vitamin D for bone health, including the prevention of rickets and osteomalacia. It also plays a role in the immune system and may prevent autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and infection.
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends a daily intake of 600 IU of vitamin D for adults to maintain blood levels sufficient to prevent deficiency symptoms, such as bone-related symptoms called osteoporosis. However, the IOM acknowledges that evidence supporting other beneficial dietary vitamin D health outcomes is inconsistent and limited.
Most mammals can make adequate amounts of vitamin D from fatty fish and sun exposure. Nonetheless, many domesticated animals require additional dietary sources of vitamin D because their ancestors did not live in areas where natural sunlight is plentiful. In addition, the synthesis of vitamin D by animals is impaired by age and genetics.
The fat-soluble vitamins A and E play a supportive role in the prevention of vitamin D deficiency signs such as encephalomalacia in chicks, whereas the water-soluble vitamin C protects against lipid peroxidation during storage of the premix in feed. In general, the efficacy of vitamins A and D is significantly reduced after 2 months of storage within mixed feed, while vitamin E and selenium are less susceptible to degradation over this period. The use of a complete vitamin premix in feed can prevent these degradations.
Thiamine, also known as Vitamin B1, is a water-soluble vitamin required for carbohydrate metabolism and energy production. It is found in foods and can be commercially synthesized to be a dietary supplement. It is necessary for nerve function and helps keep blood sugar levels normal. It is produced by bacteria in the rumen of cattle and sheep eating well-balanced roughage diets. Inappropriate feeding or environmental conditions can cause thiamine deficiency in animals and humans.
A deficiency in animals can lead to a symptom called polioencephalomalacia (PEM). PEM is caused by reduced energy availability to the brain. Normally, bacteria in the rumen produce enzymes that protect against thiamine deficiency by breaking down and inactivating it. Inappropriate feeding can cause bacteria to proliferate and produce excessive amounts of these enzymes, resulting in low levels of active thiamine in the body.
Other signs of thiamine deficiency include the animal looking “drunk” or disoriented, reduced eating and drinking, head pressing, and trembling. More severe signs include looking emaciated, becoming withdrawn, and showing signs of depression. Affected animals may not be as alert or interested in play, and they can become unable to control their movements.
Researchers are concerned about the potential for thiamine deficiency to be driving long-term wildlife population declines around the world. The deficiency doesn’t typically kill affected organisms but does damage them in ways that can erode stamina, strength, coordination, memory, and other key functions. In marine ecosystems, it appears to be chiseling away at populations of salmon and other sea creatures. Researchers are working to determine the source of the problem, which is still unknown. They have discovered, though, that a broad environmental change has altered thiamine production at the base of the food web.
Zinc is an essential nutrient that is found in various foods and is also available as a dietary supplement. It is involved in the activation of many enzymes and plays a role in cellular metabolism, protein and DNA synthesis, cell growth, and immune function. Zinc deficiency has been associated with an increased risk of infection and decreased appetite. Zinc is also used in the production of metallothionein, which decreases intestinal inflammation and oxidative stress.
Zinc deficiency is most common in low- and middle-income countries and is mainly caused by poor dietary intake. It is also exacerbated by high levels of phytate and calcium in the diet, which limit its absorption. Zinc deficiency has multiple effects on the body, including the skin and digestive tract, and can cause diarrhea and impaired immune function. It also affects cellular growth and reproduction.
While using a supplemental zinc supplement can help reduce the risk of Zinc deficiency, it is important to improve dietary intake to prevent the problem. This can be done by incorporating more plant-based foods into the diet and implementing food processing techniques that will increase the absorbability of zinc.
In addition, using biofortification of staple crops can help increase the amount of zinc consumed in the diet. However, research needs to be conducted to find out which cultivars are best suited for this purpose. Furthermore, agronomic strategies to enhance Zn availability should be explored, such as increasing the uptake of Zn by plants and decreasing the concentration of antinutrients. Additionally, promoting the use of fermented foods can also increase Zn availability. Research on the use of lactic acid fermentation to reduce phytate in pearl millet has shown promising results.
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is a water-soluble vitamin that plays an important role in transferring methyl groups and synthesizing nucleic acids and proteins. It is also involved in carbohydrate metabolism and the synthesis of red blood cells. It is produced by bacteria in animals and their feces and passed down the food chain, making animal products a good source of this nutrient. Plants do not need or produce vitamin B12; consequently, vegans who do not eat meat run a high risk of deficiency because their natural sources of this vitamin are limited to dairy products and eggs. Vegetarians who eat fish and poultry are less at risk because of the presence of B12-producing microorganisms in these foods. Vitamin B12 is available as a multivitamin/mineral supplement and in supplements that contain only this nutrient.
Deficiency signs in animals are varied, including reduced appetite, loss of coat color, diarrhea, mental dullness, behavioral changes, poor bone calcification leading to rickets in young animals, osteomalacia in adults, and anemia. The diagnosis of vitamin B12 deficiency can be difficult because the symptoms are similar to those of other nutritional disorders. In addition, the signs of deficiency are often only pronounced in the late stages of the disease and can be mistaken for other problems.
Plasma levels of vitamin B12 decline rapidly in deficiency and can be used as a marker for vitamin status. However, this indicator has poor specificity and is influenced by other factors such as low folate levels and decreased renal function, so only a serum level of 813 pg/mL (600 pmol/L) or higher should be considered indicative of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body and is found in many foods. It makes up much of bones and teeth, giving them strength and hardness. It also helps nerves carry messages between the brain and every cell of the body and mediates blood vessel contraction and dilation, muscle function, and hormone secretion. It is also needed for proper absorption of vitamin D, which may reduce the risk of developing some cancers, including colon and rectum.
Large amounts of calcium are needed to prevent deficiency. Insufficient intakes of calcium are associated with poor bone health in older adults and can lead to osteoporosis, a condition characterized by fragile bones. Calcium deficiency can also cause rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults, although these conditions are more commonly caused by vitamin D deficiency than calcium deficiency.
The calcium content of forages and concentrate feeds varies widely. Hay and small grain forage typically contain adequate levels of calcium but may be deficient in phosphorus, while concentrate feeds such as wheat middlings, corn gluten feed, and barley malt sprout pellet products tend to have low levels of calcium and high levels of phosphorus.
Milk and other dairy products are rich sources of calcium. Vegetables such as kale, broccoli, and Chinese cabbage (bok choi) also provide significant quantities of calcium. In addition, fortified breakfast cereals and fruit juices can be good sources of calcium, as can some canned fish and canned tofu. Individuals with lactose intolerance or milk allergies may have a higher risk of inadequate calcium intake and should include non-dairy food sources of calcium. The use of antacids, mineral oil, and other acid-reducing medications can increase the absorption of dietary calcium.