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by Dr. Zhi Yong Ju and Lytha Conquest

 

Nutrients, substances that are used by an organism’s metabolism, can be classified into macronutrients and micronutrients.

In general, micronutrients include vitamins, trace minerals, and other bioactive components which provide benefits via more subtle interactions with the body’s chemistry. Micronutrients are distinguished from macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate or fat) by the much smaller amounts that need to be supplied in the diets for normal metabolism. Although only required in minute amounts, micronutrients play important roles in the production of enzymes, hormones, and metabolic substances. They also help regulate growth, activity, and development, as well as immune and reproductive system functions. Adequate intake of micronutrients is especially crucial during an animal’s early life stages, when rapid growth and development take place.

The Nutritional Biochemical Laboratory of OI’s Aquatic Feeds and Nutrition Department is equipped with high-tech analytical instruments, such as the High Performance Liquid Chromatograph and the Gas Chromatograph, to quantify micronutrients, and other nutrients, in aquatic feeds and feed ingredients.

Measuring the micronutrient composition of aquatic feeds and ingredients is an essential but challenging task due to the tiny amounts one must work with, and the susceptibility of many micronutrients to environmental degradation. Knowledge of micronutrient levels in ingredients is important in formulating complete diets for nutritional research projects, and ensures the quality of aquatic feeds and ingredients.

An example of the type of research conducted by the Aquatic Feeds and Nutrition Department on micronutrients is its work on the role of phytonutrients from shrimp pond microbial floc in the growth and health of shrimp and fish. Phytonutrients are plant compounds thought to have health-protecting properties. Our current research includes the following compounds: phytopigments-carotenoids, which are responsible for the pink color in cooked shrimp; phytosterols, which play an important role in steroid hormone synthesis and the molting process; amino sugars (e.g. glucosamine), which provide the building blocks for shrimp shell formation; phospholipids, which are important components of biological membranes; and bromophenols, which are responsible for the characteristic “seafood” flavor in fish and shrimp. Many of thesemicronutrients cannot be internally synthesized by the animal, and must therefore be consumed by the shrimp, either as part of the feed or as part of the floc that they consume.

Any micronutrient deficiency in aquatic feeds, whether from poor ingredient quality, suboptimal diet formulation, or deterioration due to feed processing and storage conditions, can compromise the animal’s health, resulting in disease or slow growth. This is one of the primary reasons why lab-based nutritional research to identify and quantify micronutrients is so important in optimizing the growth and health of aquacultured shrimp and fish.

Contact Education Director Gary Karr at 259-3145 or via email at gkarr@oceanicinstitute.org, for information about volunteer and internship opportunities.

 

 

 

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