Immunonutrition, a new practice that positively impacts animal production


By Melina Bonato, zootechnician, master’s degree and PhD in zootechnics from the São Paulo State University (Unesp), and ICC Global Research and Development (R&D) Manager

Animal production increasingly requires techniques and practices that contribute to raising the productivity of rural properties, integrating the concepts of animal health and welfare. In this sense, the concept of “immunonutrition” appears as a way to modulate the immune system responses, maintain the balance of the intestinal microbiota, and avoid pro-inflammatory processes, through the supply of nutrients and/or additives, aiming at the homeostasis of the organism under challenges.

One of the most effective ways to ensure the health and welfare of animals that impact growth and production is to understand the external and internal factors that affect gut health and immune response. Thus, immunonutrition is an important concept to be considered, since it directly impacts the way in which the metabolism will use nutrients in priority order. This is an important measure for preventing and controlling challenges that affect animal health and performance.

Yeast-based additives, for example, can be considered immunonutrients and used in “AGP Free” or antibiotic-reduced programs, better preparing animals to face challenges. This technology has been the focus of ICC, a leading company in natural yeast-based nutritional solutions for animal production.

Discussions about the requirements of each market and consumers in animal production are advancing and changing rapidly. In recent years, the concept of immunonutrition has gained momentum and has been a hot topic in various species. As the objective is to prepare the herd for the daily challenges, this has an impact on growth and production. The concept has only recently been understood and applied to animal nutrition, even though the knowledge of feeding, health, management, and ambience is quite advanced and technical.

But what are immunonutrients? This category includes some amino acids, nucleotides, lipids, vitamins, and trace elements. There are also immunomodulatory substances, that is, substances that will not be absorbed, like nutrients, but that have the ability to modify the immune system response (directly or indirectly), the intestinal integrity, the microbiota and/or oxidative processes, such as prebiotics, probiotics, herbal drugs, and organic acids, among others.

It is important to understand the role of the gastrointestinal tract, which, besides being responsible for digestion and absorption, is the organ with the largest number of immune cells. Maintaining its integrity will prevent pathogens and other factors from affecting the animal’s immune responsiveness and also the metabolic cost.

In conclusion, substances that can have an influence on the microbiota, intestinal permeability, and immune system (immunonutrients) are interconnected with health, welfare, and growth. Therefore, knowing their mode of action is essential to do the right monitoring, measure the expected benefits, and quantify the return on investment.


Posted in 19 June of 2023