Broiler chickens were fed on a control diet based on maize and maize starch or diets containing chitin, or 94, 82 or 76% deacetylated chitin (chitosans) with different viscosities (360, 590 and 620 m Pa.s respectively) at an inclusion level of 30 g/kg. Animals had free access to feed and water for the whole experimental period. On days 10 and 18 of the experiment chickens given the control and chitin-containing diets weighed more, had consumed more feed and had lower feed conversion ratios (g feed/g weight gain) than chitosan-fed birds. Feeding of chitosan-containing diets generally reduced total plasma cholesterol and high-density-lipoprotein (HDL)-cholesterol concentrations and gave an increased HDL:total cholesterol ratio in comparison with chickens given the control and chitin-containing diets. However, no significant reductions in plasma triacylglycerol concentrations resulting from feeding of the chitosan-containing diets were observed. The reduction in total cholesterol concentration and increased HDL: total cholesterol ratio were probably caused by enhanced reverse cholesterol transport in response to intestinal losses of dietary fats. The suggestion that dietary fat absorption was impeded by the chitosans was strengthened by the observation that ileal fat digestibility was reduced by 26% in comparison with control and chitin-fed animals. In a plasma triacylglycerol response study on day 21, feeding of 94 and 76%-chitosan-containing diets generally reduced postprandial triacylglycerol concentrations compared with chickens given the chitin-containing diet. Duodenal digestibilities of nutrients amongst chickens given the chitin-containing diet were generally lower than those of control and chitosan-fed birds indicating decreased intestinal transit time. The reduced caecal short-chain fatty acid concentrations of chickens given chitosan diets compared with the control diet illustrates the antimicrobial nature of chitosan. The fact that the three chitosan-containing diets affected the registered variables similarly indicated that the level of inclusion of chitosans in the diet exceeded the level at which the effect of the different viscosities could be significant.
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