Digestibility and metabolism of copper in diets for pigs and influence of dietary copper on growth performance, intestinal health, and overall immune status: a review

Charmaine D. Espinosa, Hans H. Stein

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

The current contribution reviews absorption and metabolism of copper (Cu), Cu deficiency, Cu toxicity, Cu bioavailability, and effects of pharmacological levels of Cu on growth performance and intestinal health of pigs. Copper is a micro mineral involved in metabolic reactions including cellular respiration, tissue pigmentation, hemoglobin formation, and connective tissue development. Copper is mostly absorbed in the upper gastrointestinal tract, particularly in the duodenum, but some Cu is absorbed in the stomach. One way to evaluate the efficacy of sources of Cu is to measure relative bioavailability where responses include tissue concentrations of Cu, concentrations of metalloproteins, and enzymatic activity of animals fed test diets containing graded levels of Cu. The requirement for Cu by pigs is 5 to 10 mg/kg diet, however, Cu can be included at growth-promoting levels (i.e., 75 to 250 mg/kg diet) in diets for weanling and growing pigs to reduce post-weaning diarrhea and improve growth performance. The consistently observed improvement in growth performance upon Cu supplementation is likely a result of increases in lipase activity, growth hormone secretion, and expression of genes involved in post-absorptive metabolism of lipids. The growth-promoting effects of dietary Cu have also been attributed to its bacteriostatic and bactericidal properties because Cu may change bacterial populations in the intestine, and thereby reduce inflammation caused by pathogens. However, further research is needed to determine potential interactions between Cu and non-nutritive feed additives (e.g., enzymes, probiotics, phytobiotics), and the optimum quantity of Cu as well as the optimum duration of feeding supplemental Cu in diets for pigs should be further investigated. These gaps needs to be addressed to maximize inclusion of Cu in diets to improve growth performance while minimizing diseases and mortality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number13
JournalJournal of Animal Science and Biotechnology
Volume12
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Keywords

  • Copper
  • Copper nutrition
  • Intestinal health
  • Metabolism
  • Pharmacological concentrations
  • Pigs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Biochemistry
  • Animal Science and Zoology

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