Free Access
Reprod. Nutr. Dev.
Volume 41, Number 1, January-February 2001
Page(s) 47 - 55
DOI: 10.1051/rnd:2001111

Reprod. Nutr. Dev. 41 (2001) 47-55

Effect of dietary $\beta$-carotene on the accumulation of $\beta$-carotene and vitamin A in plasma and tissues of gilts

Florian J. Schweigerta, Ingeborg Buchholzb, Annette Schuhmacherc and Jürgen Groppc

a  Institute of Nutritional Science, University Potsdam, Arthur-Scheunert-Allee 114-116, 14558 Potsdam-Rehbrücke, Germany
b  Department of Veterinary Physiology, Veterinary Faculty, University of Leipzig, Germany
c  Department of Animal Nutrition, Veterinary Faculty, University of Leipzig, Germany

(Received 18 August 2000; accepted 22 January 2001)

The absorption of $\beta$-carotene in pigs is limited. Nevertheless $\beta$-carotene might positively affect reproduction. In this study the absorption and tissue distribution of $\beta$-carotene as well as its function as precursor of vitamin A was investigated in gilts that were fed according to one of three dietary treatments: VA (4000 IU vitamin A), VA + VA (4000 IU + 8300 IU) and VA + BC (4000 IU + 100 mg $\beta$-carotene per kg diet) for 14 weeks. Only in the VA + BC group was $\beta$-carotene detected in plasma (1-8 ng$\cdot$mL-1), liver, adrenals and corpora lutea, indicating that pigs absorb intact $\beta$-carotene at low rates. Liver levels of vitamin A were higher ( P < 0.01) at comparable levels in the VA + VA and VA + BC group than in the VA group, indicating a conversion rate of $\beta$-carotene to vitamin A of 40 to 1 on the basis of weight for $\beta$-carotene at this level (100 mg$\cdot$kg-1) in the diet. Higher levels of vitamin A in the uterus of the VA + BC group ( P < 0.01) as well as the accumulation of $\beta$-carotene in adrenals and corpora lutea might reflect some influence of $\beta$-carotene on local vitamin A metabolism which might be of importance for reproductive performance in gilts.

Key words: pig / metabolism / absorption / tissue distribution / $\beta$-carotene / vitamin A

Correspondence and reprints: Florian J. Schweigert

© INRA, EDP Sciences 2001