Thursday, October 28, 2010
Natural Growth Promoters in Fish
Saponins are naturally-occurring defense compounds produced in some species of plant, and while most nutritionists off the top of their head would tell you that feeding them to fish is probably a bad idea, new evidence has suggested otherwise. Recent experiments have found that cultured carp and tilapia fed a small level of saponins in their diet experienced increased growth rates and lower oxygen demands than fish fed a normal diet. Upon closer examination, it was concluded that saponins help the digestive tract of the fish take up dietary components, as well as stimulate the activity of digestive enzymes: both of these effects lead to an increase in feed utilization and efficiency of uptake, and thus better growth rates.
This has some massive implications for the aquaculture industry: the use of synthetic growth promoters such as antibiotics or steroid hormones is experiencing more and more resistance from consumers and industry alike, and rightly so. These compounds are not natural and their effects on the fish (and the people who eat that fish) are still being studied. However, saponins are natural, plant-based, renewable compounds, making them a seemingly more healthy and sustainable option for a feed additive.