Accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative: Efficacy of TiO2 as digestibility index marker for poultry nutrition studies

Colleen Sprigg, Philip T. Leftwich, Emily Burton, Dawn Scholey, Michael R. Bedford, Charles A. Brearley

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Inert digestibility index markers such as titanium dioxide are universally accepted to provide simple measurement of digestive tract retention and relative digestibility in poultry feeding trials. Their use underpins industry practice: specifically dosing regimens for adjunct enzymes added to animal feed. Among these, phytases, enzymes that degrade dietary phytate, inositol hexakisphosphate, represent a billion-dollar sector in an industry that raises ca. 70 billion chickens/annum. Unbeknown to the feed enzyme sector, is the growth in cell biology of use of titanium dioxide for enrichment of inositol phosphates from extracts of cells and tissues. The adoption of titanium dioxide in cell biology arises from its affinity under acid conditions for phosphates, suggesting that in feeding trial contexts that target phytate degradation this marker may not be as inert as assumed. We show that feed grade titanium dioxide enriches a mixed population of higher and lower inositol phosphates from acid solutions. Additionally, we compared the extractable inositol phosphates in gizzard and ileal digesta of 21day old male Ross 308 broilers fed three phytase doses (0, 500 and 6000 FTU/kg feed) and one inositol dose (2g/kg feed). This experiment was performed with or without titanium dioxide added as a digestibility index marker at a level of 0.5%, with all diets fed for 21 days. Analysis yielded no significant difference in effect of phytase inclusion in the presence or absence of titanium dioxide. Thus, despite the utility of titanium dioxide for recovery of inositol phosphates from biological samples, it seems that its use as an inert marker in digestibility trials is justified—as its inclusion in mash diets does not interfere with the recovery of inositol phosphates from digesta samples.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0284724
JournalPLoS One
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jun 2023

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