Using milk thistle to reduce liver damage from mycotoxins

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Mycotoxins not only reduce animal performance, but they also cause significant liver damage.
The seeds of the herb plant milk thistle contain a mixture of flavonolignans known as silymarin and can help in reducing liver damage when animals get in contact with mycotoxin contaminated feed.
Mycotoxins are a constant problem in cereals causing economic losses to the global animal industry. Mycotoxins are produced by filamentous fungi varying widely in their chemical and biological characteristics and effects on animals. Among the various mycotoxins, aflatoxins, and more specifically aflatoxin B1, is one of the most problematic because it affects maize, one of the major staple ingredients in animal diets worldwide. Of course, in nature, mycotoxins mostly occur in combinations, but even with singly contaminated ingredients, the nature of animal feeds leads to the concurrent presence of multiple mycotoxins, coming from the different ingredients. The separation of mycotoxins in polar and non-polar, however, simplifies their management. For example, aflatoxins (polar) are easily addressed by the inclusion of an adsorbent (like bentonite, for example). The same ingredient adsorbs not only aflatoxins, but also other mycotoxins, like zearalenone, ochratoxin A, and T-2 toxin, albeit at reduced efficiency.
Products limited to work in gut
Certainly, anti-mycotoxin agents are effective only while the feed is being digested, that is, while the feed remains in the lumen of the gastrointestinal tract. Anti-mycotoxin agents are not absorbed by the animal, whereas non-adsorbed mycotoxins are; leading to the need for further detoxification within the organism. Parts of mycotoxins might enter the organism despite the use of an anti-mycotoxin agent in feed due to the fact that no product is 100% effective, not all mycotoxins are affected similarly by a single product, non-polar mycotoxins might not be inactivated if only a polar agent is used, and vice versa and lastly, high contamination might render the normal dosage inadequate. This is often seen as being the most common cause, In other words, part of mycotoxins in the feed can still enter the animal. The exact effects on animal health and performance will depend, of course, on the initial contamination levels in the feed and on the constitution of the liver.
Mycotoxins and liver damage
Even short-term exposure to mycotoxins suffices to cause significant liver damage and loss of performance. In a study (Meissonnier, 2007), pigs were given 385, 867, or 1807 μg aflatoxin B1/kg feed for four weeks. Pigs receiving the highest level of aflatoxin developed clear signs of aflatoxicosis: hepatic dysfunction and decrease in weight gain. Also, the pigs exposed to the lower levels of mycotoxins showed clear signs of impaired metabolism and biotransformation. Additionally, mycotoxins and particularly aflatoxins inhibit the major hepatic biotransformation enzymes. This has significant consequences in veterinary medication applications as animals become unable to clear medications from their system – and of course, other toxins.
ALL ABOUT FEED, Volume 23, No. 3, 2015
Tags: liver damage, mycotoxins, Silymarin

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