Could spicier food improve piglet gut health?

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis contact

- Last updated on GMT

Credit: GettyImages
Credit: GettyImages
A cinnamon-derived feed additive may support gut health and feed intake for piglets while reducing instances of diarrhea, say researchers.

An international team of researchers from China, Canada and the US examined the use of Oleumcinnaomoni​ (OCM) in the diets of weaned piglets. The group published its work in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences​.

“The present study was carried out to determine the effects of OCM on intestinal gene expression and function in piglets,”​ the researchers said.

The research team found that use of the feed additive improved average daily feed intake, villus width and villous surface area in the duodenum and jejunum, they said. It also changed levels of bacteria in the caecum digesta.

“Data indicate that dietary OCM supplementation modulates intestinal microbiota and improves intestinal function in weanling pigs,” ​they said. “OCM is an effective feed additive and alternative to feed antibiotics for improving intestinal health in swine.”

Why oleum cinnamomi?

The increasing concern about the use of antibiotics has led to several countries starting to ban or phase out use of antibiotics in animal production, the researchers said. It also has increased interest in potential, sustainable alternatives.

Some research has focused on plant extracts as they are considered natural and may provide antibacterial, antifungal or antiviral activities, they said. Phytochemicals may interrupt microbial cell structures or alter the permeability of the bacterial cell resulting in the death of the bacteria.

Additionally, essential oils have been used in food preservation, alternative medicine, natural therapies and pharmaceutical therapies for multiple years, they said.

Oleum cinnamomi​ is an essential oil more commonly used in the food industry because of the scent it provides, they said. However, antibacterial activity has been linked to extracts from the bark and leaves of Cinnamomum burmannii​ and Cinnamomun osmophloeum​ and the bioactive compound is thought to be cinnamaldehyde – which can inhibitor of bacteria, yeast and some molds.

Cinnamaldehyde has been developed for some medicinal purposes, including for use as an anti-inflammatory, anti-emetic and analgesic, said the researchers. Few side effects have been noted.

However, there is little information regarding the use of OCM in animal production, they said.

Methods and materials

In the feeding trial, 16 weaned piglets were given one of two diets for a period of 21 days, the researchers said. The diets included a corn-soybean meal based diet and the basal diet with 50mg/kg OCM.

Blood samples were collected on day 20, feed consumption, body weight and diarrhea events were recorded, they said.

At the end of the feeding trial, all piglets were collected to harvest intestinal tissue and contents for analysis, they said.


Piglets getting the diet with 50mg/kg OCM saw improved average daily feed intake of 13.6% and a reduced rate of diarrhea by 37.5%, the researchers said.

Piglets getting the supplemented feed also tended to have an improved average daily gain compared to the control, they said.

The supplemented group saw an increase in the level of plasma insulin, but no changes for cortisol levels, insulin-light growth factors or PGE2 in plasma, they said. The supplement was not linked to change in intestinal villus height, crypt depth or villus height: crypt, but pigs on the supplemented feed had additional villus width and villous surface area in the jejunum and duodenum.

Pigs on the supplemented diets saw changes in the amounts of several types of bacteria in the caecum and colon digesta, they said. Supplement use also altered the gene expression in the jejunum.

“In the colon, dietary OCM supplementation decreased the abundance of Enterobacteriaceae family (−87%), Enterococcus genus (−64%), Lactobacillus genus (−54%), Bifidobacterium genus (−76%), and Clostridium coccoides (−73%), compared with the control group,” ​said the researchers. “In the caecum, OCM supplementation increased the abundance of Enterococcus genus (+212%) and Lactobacillus genus (+104%), but reduced the abundance of Enterobacteriaceae family (−34%), Clostridium coccoides (−59%), and Bifidobacterium genus (−73%) in comparison with the control group.”

Source: Dietary Supplementation with Oleum Cinnamomi Improves Intestinal Functions in Piglets

Title: International Journal of Molecular Sciences

Authors: Dan Yi, Qiuhong Fang, Yongqing Hou, Lei Wang, Haiwang Xu, Tao Wu, Joshua Gong,  and Guoyao Wu

DOI: 10.3390/ijms19051284

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