Varied effects of dietary carotenoid supplementation on oxidative damage in tissues of two waterfowl species

Alex E. Mohr, Marc Girard, Melissah Rowe, Kevin McGraw, Karen Sweazea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Carotenoids are regarded as a cornerstone of avian vitality and coloration. Currently, the antioxidant potential of dietary carotenoids is debated for birds. Although some studies support a protective role, others report either no effect or pro-oxidant effects. However, the majority of research on this topic has not analyzed the oxidative status of a series of tissues in animals nor considered a range of carotenoid dosages. We investigated the effects of three levels of carotenoid supplementation on plasma, liver, adipose, heart and breast muscle oxidative damage in two congeneric species of waterfowl that exhibit marked differences in carotenoid coloration. After a 6-week depletion period, captive adult northern pintail (Anas acuta) and mallard (A. platyrhynchos) ducks of both sexes were fed either a carotenoid-depleted diet (<3 μg/g xanthophylls, lutein and zeaxanthin), a carotenoid-supplemented diet (50 μg/g) within physiological range, or a carotenoid-rich diet (100 μg/g) within pharmacological range for 22 to 32 weeks. We hypothesized that these dosages of dietary carotenoids would differentially affect oxidative damage between species and sexes and among the tissues examined. We found that dietary xanthophyll supplementation had no significant effect on tissue pro-oxidation in males and females from both species. Moreover, sex or species differences in oxidative stress were only observed in two tissues (plasma and heart). Significant correlations in the levels of oxidative damage were not observed among the tissues examined. In conclusion, the current study does not support a consistent antioxidant role for dietary carotenoids in the tissues of these two waterfowl species. Instead, our results align with the notion that carotenoids play complex, tissue- and species-specific roles in oxidative status in birds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-74
Number of pages8
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part - B: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
StatePublished - May 2019


  • Anas acuta
  • Anas platyrhynchos
  • Carotenoids
  • Ducks
  • Liver
  • Lutein
  • Mallard
  • Oxidative damage
  • Pintail
  • Xanthophylls

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology


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