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Unique Effects of Inulin on Fish Health

18 February 2016

GLOBAL - One of the biggest challenges in the world is feeding the growing population in a sustainable way. With aquaculture playing a more prominent role in the production of animal protein on a global scale, there is a rising interest in optimising the sustainability of the sector.

Limiting pollution, optimised use of limited feed resources and improving disease resistance are some examples of challenges sustainable aquaculture has to cope with.

In this scope, prebiotics can play an important role in maintaining good fish health by influencing both the immune system and the health of fish.

Derived from Chicory, inulin is one example of a prebiotic that can be used in a fish diet.

This fiber source cannot be digested by the digestive enzymes in the gastro-intestinal system, but has an unique action in the gut of enhancing the growth of good intestinal flora such as, for example, lactic acid bacteria.

The fermentation of inulin in the colon also increases the short chain fatty acid production which stimulates the villi to grow and improves the absorption of nutrients.

The latter can have a positive influence on the zootechnical performances of fish through a higher specific growth rate and lower feed conversion ratio.

In addition, prebiotics can offer an alternative to the traditional use of antibiotics in aquaculture by activating the innate immune system.

Research on the effect of inulin in seabream, sturgeon and tilapia showed a clear effect on important immunological parameters, such as an increased immunoglobulin level, a higher lysozyme activity and enhanced white blood cell levels.

These parameters cause an increase of the general disease resistance of fish.

In conclusion, via its unique effect on intestinal health inulin can contribute to a more sustainable aquafeed production with improved feed efficiency and better health status of the farmed fish.

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