Trace mineral forms and animal gut health

Xingjia Bio-engineering Co., Ltd.


The gastro-intestinal (GI) tract is not only the way for animals to obtain nutrients, but also the first line of defense against pathogens and foreign antigens. Therefore, maintaining health of GI tract is of great significance for animals to achieve high performances.

1.   Common problems of GI tract

a)   Microflora disorder in GI tract

A healthy gut represents a dynamic equilibrium between 'good' and 'bad' microorganisms in microflora of the GI tract, and they are mutually restrained. In contrast, some factors break this equilibrium and make pathogenic microorganisms dominant in the microflora, resulting damage of the GI tract and infection of animal body.

b)   Damages in structure of the GI tract

Factors such as feed form, bacterial toxins or mycotoxins in the feed can cause damage of the GI tract, which are manifested as intestinal ulcers, shortened intestinal epithelial villi, and loosened connection of intestinal epithelial cells.

c)    pH disorder

The pH is a prerequisite for maintaining digestive function of the GI tract. A variety of digestive enzymes need to be activated or exert optimal digestive activity at a specific pH. If factors increase pH in the stomach, pepsinogen cannot be converted to pepsin. Changes in the small intestine pH would influence activity of trypsin or chymotrypsin, thereby affecting the digestion of dietary proteins.

d)   Malfunction of GI tract immunity

The GI tract is the largest immune organ in animals. Microflora in the GI tract, mucin secreted by the intestinal epithelium, and immune cells in the intestinal epithelium as well as the epithelium itself constitute immune barriers to defend invasion of pathogens in animals. Lack of the components or impaired functions affect intestinal health of animals and further affect the animal's performances.

2.   Trace mineral forms and gut health

a)   Sulphate salts

Due to the nature of industrial by-products, conventional products of metal sulfate contain various impurities such as oxidants and heavy metals. It has been identified that these materials cause intestinal damages. Moreover, free acids and sulfate ions of sulfates stimulate tissues of the GI tract and promote inflammation, result in reduction of digestion, absorption and even immune function.

b)   Basic salts

The products of basic salt do not contain sulfate ion and their impurities are much lower than the products of sulfate salts. These properties can greatly reduce incidences of gut damages. Therefore, basic salts are better forms used as supplements of trace minerals for animal feeds.

The experiment conducted in China Agricultural University by Dr. Zhang Bingkun showed that basic zinc chloride (BZC) promoted the mRNA expression of tight junction proteins in the intestinal epithelial cells and increase the tight junction of epithelial cells.

The in vitro antibacterial test conducted by XJ-Bio showed that at equivalent concentration of copper, basic copper chloride (BCC) expressed 33.33% and 54.55% greater degree in inhibiting growth of E. coli and Salmonella, respectively, with comparison of copper sulfate, when their inhibitory effects were measured in diameter of inhibitory zone on plates (Table 1).


Fig 1.  Effect of Zinc sources on mRNA expression of tight junction protein in intestinal epithelial cells (Guo,2008) mRNA between intestinal epithelial cells (呙于明, 2008)


Table 1. E ffectiveness of hydroxy copper chloride (BCC) and copper sulfate (CuSO4) in inhibiting growth of the selected pathogens (XJ-Bio,2012, unit: mm)


c)    Organic trace minerals

Recent researches indicated that organic trace minerals improved activity of various digestive enzymes (Fang, 2004), increased the mesenteric lymph node index (Yang, 2012). The trial in weaned pigs conducted by XJ-Bio (2016) showed that zinc hydroxymethionine significantly increased intestinal villus height and villus height:crypt depth ratio.

Many researches have shown that trace minerals participate in not only the metabolic activities of the intestine itself, but also microbial metabolisms in the GI tract, such as pathogenic factor α-toxin which Clostridium perfringens attacks the intestinal tract is a zinc-dependent multifunctional metalloenzyme. Therefore, it is a great challenge how to smartly use trace minerals to improve gut health of animals.



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Article made possible through the contribution of Xingjia Bio-engineering Co., Ltd.