Effects of omega-3 fatty acids on immune function in broiler chickens
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To link to this article DOI: 10.3382/ps.2011-01693
There is interest in the enrichment of poultry meat with long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in order to increase the consumption of these fatty acids by humans. However, there is concern that high levels of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids may have detrimental effects on immune function in chickens. The effect of feeding increasing levels of fish oil (FO) on immune function was investigated in broiler chickens. Three-week-old broilers were fed 1 of 4 wheat-soybean basal diets that contained 0, 30, 50, or 60 g/kg of FO until slaughter. At slaughter, samples of blood, bursa of Fabricius, spleen, and thymus were collected from each bird. A range of immune parameters, including immune tissue weight, immuno-phenotyping, phagocytosis, and cell proliferation, were assessed. The pattern of fatty acid incorporation reflected the fatty acid composition of the diet. The FO did not affect the weight of the spleen, but it did increase thymus weight when fed at 50 g/kg (P < 0.001). Fish oil also lowered bursal weights when fed at 50 or 60 g/kg (P < 0.001). There was no significant effect of FO on immune cell phenotypes in the spleen, thymus, bursa, or blood. Feeding 60 g/kg of FO significantly decreased the percentage of monocytes engaged in phagocytosis, but it increased their mean fluorescence intensity relative to that of broilers fed 50 g/kg of FO. Lymphocyte proliferation was significantly decreased after feeding broiler chickens diets rich in FO when expressed as division index or proliferation index, although there was no significant effect of FO on the percentage of divided cells. In conclusion, dietary n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids decrease phagocytosis and lymphocyte proliferation in broiler chickens, highlighting the need for the poultry industry to consider the health status of poultry when poultry meat is being enriched with FO.