Antioxidants & B Vitamins in Pigeons
In the modern time of pigeon racing, flyers have been aware of the facts that there is more to feed than just grain, grit & cereals. Certainly, grains are an excellent source of energy, protein, some minerals and fibers, but they have very low levels of trace elements and vitamins required for the exertions of the top flyers and the breeding of strong youngsters. Pigeons in generally can survive on grain and grit alone, but they cannot reach the level of health wanted to withstand the pressures of racing or breeding. Eventually their health will fail under these extreme physical pressures.
Good feeding and proper use of feed additives will first of all control most illnesses of the racing pigeons, but will also secure top performance in breeding and racing. Lack of proper feed and feed ingredients typically results in:
- No more wing flapping in the early morning or after feeding.
- Disinterest in leaving loft or toss basket, lower lid laziness etc.
- Lack of fertility, poor growth and development in YB
- Loss and lack of performance in racing
Among the B vitamins: in particular riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid are often low in grain mixtures and vitamin B12 is not present. This means that the vitamins, minerals and trace elements lacking in the grain must be given to the pigeons in some form. Many fanciers use spinach, shell grit, and commercial blends of multivitamins, but this is usually still not enough to balance the nutritional requirements of the athletic pigeon. Nowadays most fanciers add vitamin and trace elements to the water or to the feed once or twice a week and provide the minerals in powdered or block form ad lib. Note that many commercial multivitamin products lack such as B12, B9 and good sources of antioxidants.
Today the B-vitamins and the antioxidants are among the most important feedstuff additives in modern racing pigeon sport but are the least to be found in the products of today.
We address their importance here:
The B-vitamins improve the metabolism of the flyers, the health and the energy for pigeons. Theirs importance for young birds, breeding and racing birds are evident as their mode of actions is:
Vitamin B1 is essential to convert carbohydrates into glycogen for storage in the liver, i.e. the storage of pure energy. Furthermore it promotes appetite and a healthy nervous and digestive system, and help build up the skeleton.
Vitamin B2 is essential for the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats, and for the proper functioning of the nervous system, and for the development of the embryo.
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) regulates metabolism in the nerves and liver, and is important for growth. Along with B9 (folic acid) and B12, B6 aids the production of red blood cells, improving the condition of the bird. Vitamin B9 prevents anemia and promote the development of embryo.
Vitamin B12 contains the metal cobalt and is essential for the formation of red blood cells and for the growth in the first weeks of a pigeon life. It is also necessary for the development of eggs. From a pigeon nutritional point of view, the effect of single B-vitamin may be difficult to separate, as they more or less have complex joint and synergistic effects on the metabolisms.
An antioxidant is per definition a molecule capable of slowing or preventing the oxidation of other molecules. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that transfers electrons from a substance to an oxidizing agent. Oxidation reactions can produce free radicals, which start chain reactions that damage cells. Antioxidants terminate these chain reactions by removing free radical intermediates, and inhibit other oxidation reactions by being oxidized themselves. As a result, antioxidants are often reducing agents such as thiols, Vitamin E, Selene, ascorbic acid or polyphones.
Although oxidation reactions are crucial for life, they can also be damaging; hence, plants and animals maintain complex systems of multiple types of antioxidants, such as glutathione, vitamin C, and vitamin E as well as enzymes such as cataloes, superoxide dismutase and various peroxides. Low levels of antioxidants, or inhibition of the antioxidant enzymes, cause oxidative stress and may damage or kill cells.
As oxidative stress might be an important part of many pigeon diseases, and the use of antioxidants in human pharmacology is intensively studied, particularly as treatments for stroke and neurodegenerative diseases. However, it is still some unknown whether oxidative stress is the cause or the consequence of disease.
Flying pigeons is an energy demanding activity that imposes several physiological challenges on birds, such as increase in energy expenditure. Evidence from divers sports medicine shows that exhausting exercise may cause oxidative stress in the body. Studies on avian flight have so far considered several blood parameters, such as uric acid, corticosteroids, or circulating free fatty acids.
Two years ago there was reported a study that analyzed markers of oxidative stress in flying birds (D.Costantini et al, Long flights and age affect oxidative status of homing pigeons (Columba livia) Journal of Experimental Biology 211, 377-381 (2008)). In this study, two groups of pigeons flew for around 60 and 200 km, respectively. Pigeons that flew for 200 km had a 54% increase in oxidative damage as measured by serum reactive oxygen metabolites, and a 19% drop in total serum antioxidant capacity and an 86% increase of oxidative stress.
Antioxidants & B Vitamins in Pigeons