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The Role of Antioxidants as Feed Additives in Improving Animal Health & Performance

Antioxidants are compounds or substances that restricts oxidation, thus removing potentially damaging oxidizing agents in a living organism. “An antioxidant is a substance that, when present in food at a concentration lower than that of the oxidizable matrix, is significantly capable of interrupting or preventing its oxidation” – Halliwell and Gutteridge (1999). Antioxidants are highly beneficial in animal health and nutrition. They are also used to increase the shelf life of feed additives and premixes.
Animal feed contains components such as fats, proteins, and other organic compounds that are susceptible to oxidation when exposed to elements such as oxygen, light, and heat. This oxidation can lead to rancidity, reduced nutritional value of feed, and the production of toxic compounds which can prove highly dangerous when given to animals. Antioxidants can prevent or slow down the process of oxidization by neutralizing the free radicals that cause damage.
In addition to protecting the feed, antioxidants in animal feed can also prove extremely beneficial for the animal’s health. For instance, oxidative stress can occur in the animal’s body when it is exposed to environmental stressors such as heat, disease, or high energy foods. Antioxidants present in the animal feed can help to reduce oxidative stress by neutralizing these free radicals and protecting the animal’s cells from damage. This can improve the animal’s immune function, reproductive performance, and overall health.
Some common antioxidants used in animal feed include vitamin E, vitamin C, selenium, and various plant-derived compounds such as flavonoids and carotenoids. The appropriate type and amount of antioxidant added to animal feed will depend on various factors such as the animal species, diet, and production goals.
Antioxidants are also helpful in keeping premixes and feed additives healthy and fresh. As antioxidants helps protect them from damages caused by oxidation, they also help in the preservation of feed. Antioxidants are also used to maintain the feed’s sensory characteristics, thus reducing their discolouration and rancidity.  They are also extremely helpful in preventing the loss of nutrients such as vitamins and amino acids.
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