Effect of wheat bran and probiotic intake on the oxidative status in the colon and blood of finisher pigs

Wheat bran contains ferulic acid, which has proven benefits to pig and human health by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in order to promote gastrointestinal tract health.

But not all ferulic acid in wheat bran is useable by the pig, reducing its capacity to provide beneficial effects. 


This research will identify whether feeding wheat bran with a probiotic could increase the availability of ferulic acid. This could lead to modification of diets to improve pig gut health and help our understanding of how to reduce human diseases associated with inflammation. This collaboration between scientists studying animal and human nutrition is part of a PhD studentship funded by the Turkey Ministry of Education

Plan of work

Thirty-six pigs at the final stage of production, when their gut bacteria is stable, will be used. Pigs will be provided one of three diets: a control diet, a diet with increased wheat bran (WB) or WB plus a probiotic, between the ages of 16 and 22 weeks.

All pigs will be blood sampled at day 0 (start of trial), 14, 24, 34 and 42 days, to monitor immune/inflammatory markers. Blood sampling may cause a mild, short-lived, level of suffering. Potential adverse effects include pain at the injection site, which will be monitored for infection and treated accordingly.  

On day 42, 30 pigs will be humanely euthanized for gut sample collection. The remaining six pigs will return to the commercial herd. 

Animal welfare

Pigs will be housed on a commercial farm that meets current UK legislation and standard husbandry practices. Pigs will be health checked daily and medicated as appropriate. Regulated procedures will be carried out by Home Office-trained technicians to ensure comfort and minimise stress. 

Three Rs


It is not feasible to conduct this research in humans due to the need for post-mortem gut samples. Given the potential benefit of the diets to commercially housed pigs, using pigs and replicating commercial conditions is required. 


The number of animals used for sampling has been calculated to determine the fewest number of animals to allow for reliable and conclusive results. It also allows for any animals needing to be removed due to ill health.


Blood samples are the most appropriate method to measure immune/inflammatory markers from live pigs over time. 

Not only will the pig industry benefit from these results, the results could also support collaboration with human nutrition and health researchers to improve human gastrointestinal tract health, given the similarity between the pig and human gut.

Non-technical summary 

Read effect of wheat bran and probiotic intake on the oxidative status in the colon and blood of finisher pigs non-technical summary (PDF).

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