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Review: Effects of fibre, grain starch digestion rate and the ileal brake on voluntary feed intake in pigs

  • V. Ratanpaul (a1), B. A. Williams (a1), J. L. Black (a2) and M. J. Gidley (a1)


Grains rich in starch constitute the primary source of energy for both pigs and humans, but there is incomplete understanding of physiological mechanisms that determine the extent of digestion of grain starch in monogastric animals including pigs and humans. Slow digestion of starch to produce glucose in the small intestine (SI) leads to undigested starch escaping to the large intestine where it is fermented to produce short-chain fatty acids. Glucose generated from starch provides more energy than short-chain fatty acids for normal metabolism and growth in monogastrics. While incomplete digestion of starch leads to underutilised feed in pigs and economic losses, it is desirable in human nutrition to maintain consistent body weight in adults. Undigested nutrients reaching the ileum may trigger the ileal brake, and fermentation of undigested nutrients or fibre in the large intestine triggers the colonic brake. These intestinal brakes reduce the passage rate in an attempt to maximise nutrient utilisation, and lead to increased satiety that may reduce feed intake. The three physiological mechanisms that control grain digestion and feed intake are: (1) gastric emptying rate; (2) interplay of grain digestion and passage rate in the SI controlling the activation of the ileal brake; and (3) fermentation of undigested nutrients or fibre in the large intestine activating the colonic brake. Fibre plays an important role in influencing these mechanisms and the extent of their effects. In this review, an account of the physiological mechanisms controlling the passage rate, feed intake and enzymatic digestion of grains is presented: (1) to evaluate the merits of recently developed methods of grain/starch digestion for application purposes; and (2) to identify opportunities for future research to advance our understanding of how the combination of controlled grain digestion and fibre content can be manipulated to physiologically influence satiety and food intake.

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