Vitamins C in Poultry
Untoo M. and Sharma R.K.
Department of Livestock Production and Management, CCS Haryana Agricultural University,
Hisar-125 004 (Haryana).
- Vitamins are micronutrients that take part in almost all organic metabolic processes, and
are vitally important for achieving good performance and health. Vitamins can be divided
into two groups based on their solubility in lipids (liposoluble) and water (hydrosoluble).
The liposoluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E and K, whereas the complex B vitamins
(B1, B2, B6, B12, folic acid, nicotinic acid, pantothenic acid) and vitamin C are classified as
hydrosoluble. In general, liposoluble vitamins have specific functions in the development
and maintenance of tissue structures, while the hydrosoluble vitamins participate in
catalytic functions or act as control mechanisms of the metabolism, as coenzymes.
Antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E are believed to protect the body cells from harmful free
radical oxidation that can contribute to diseases; reduce the negative effects of certain
eicosanoids, and enhance humoral and cellular immune responses in stress conditions.
Deficiency of one or more vitamins can lead to multiple metabolic disorders, resulting in
decreased productivity, delayed growth, reproductive problems and/or decreased immunity.
Vitamin nutrition should no longer be considered important only for preventing deficiency
signs but also for optimizing bird’s health, productivity and product quality.
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid):
It is a water-soluble, antioxidant vitamin; mostly present in fresh fruits (citrus fruits),
fresh vegetables, properly sprouted pulses, germinating grams, potato and seeds are poor
sources but rich during germination. Amla is one of the richest sources of vitamin C both in
the fresh as well as in the dry condition.
Poultry synthesize vitamin C in their kidneys and can meet the needs, thus supplementation
is considered unnecessary in normal environmental conditions. But few birds live in
superlative conditions, free from stressors such as heat or cold, handling etc which may
affect the ability of the ascorbic acid synthesis. Dietary supplementation can assist adequate
tissue levels in these conditions.
The decreased nutrient intake by poultry at high temperatures also has impact on intake
of vitamins and also influence metabolism such as vitamin A, E and C which play important
roles in performance and immune function. Supplementation of these vitamins is helpful
for maintaining performance and immune function of heat stressed birds. Also, optimal
responses in feed efficiency and live ability in broilers under heat stress seem to occur with
supplements of vitamin C.
1.Antioxidant: Vitamin C is one of the powerful anti-oxidants that block the
damage caused by free radicals, which are by-products when body transforms
food into energy. The buildup of these by-products over time is largely
responsible for the aging process and can contribute to the development of
various health conditions.
Ascorbic acid can scavenge free radicals and reduce oxidative stress. Free radicals
of oxygen and nitrogen are highly reactive and cause damage to DNA, cells, and
tissues. Antioxidant properties enhance resistance to infections and aging.
Protecting the fat-soluble vitamins A and E as well as fatty acids from oxidation.
2.Immune System: Vitamin C makes the epithelial tissues in the mouth less
permeable to bacteria. It also helps the white blood cells function properly and so
contributes to the proper working of the immune system.
Vitamin C can decrease the duration and severity of symptoms of a cold or flu.
Furthermore, it protects the immune system and reduces mortality in growing
birds infected with IBD in a hot environment by protecting the lymphoid organs
and thyroid activity.
3.Maintenance: Collagen a protein that gives structure to bones, cartilage, muscle,
and blood vessels .Vitamin C helps in its maintenance. It also improves eggshell
quality via its role in the formation of the shell's organic matrix.
4.Wound healing: vitamin C supplementation accelerates wound healing
5.Reduce the toxic substances: Vitamin C help reduce the damage to the body
caused by toxic chemicals and pollutants.
6.Enhances iron absorption: Vitamin C helps to convert iron into a chemical form
that is more easily absorbed from the digestive tract.
Taking vitamin C with iron can increase the absorption of non-haeme iron. Iron is
available in two forms – ‘haeme’ and ‘non-haeme’. Haeme iron is found in meat,
fish and poultry while non-haeme is present in these foods plus vegetable, fruit,
grains and legumes. Iron absorption is enhanced by vitamin C.
7.Benefits: Supplementation of ascorbic acid may improves growth, egg
production, and number of hatching eggs, feed efficiency, egg weight, shell
quality and livability during heat stress.
Vitamin C insufficiency may lead to fatigue, aching of the limbs, joint pain, easy bruising,
and anemia. Failure to produce collagen results in weak blood vessels, muscle tissue
breakdown and an inability to make scar tissue for proper healing of wounds. Vitamin C
deficiency can occur as a result of insufficient intake of dietary sources containing ascorbic
acid in stressed conditions.
Thus it is advisable to add ascorbic acid/vitamin C in the diet of poultry for better
performance in stress conditions.