GAA as source of creatine
GAA as source of creatine
GAA as source of creatine
GAA as source of creatine

Technical articles

Creatine:  The missing link for healthy growth

by Dr. John Thomson, Sales Manager US, AlzChem LLC and Dr. Ulrike Braun, Product Manager, AlzChem Trostberg GmbH

 

CURRENT FEEDING PRACTICES INCLUDING VEGETARIAN DIETS ARE MISSING CREATINE 

The poultry industry is feeding less animal protein to broilers and turkeys today compared to just a decade ago. The use of animal protein was banned in livestock feeds in the year 2000 in Europe due to concerns over public health. The complete ban was lifted, but animal protein use remains low.

Animal protein products, especially fishmeal, add another risk factor as they have been associated with a higher occurence of necrotic enteritis (NE). This associated risk has led many companies who utilize antibiotic-free systems to reduce or eliminate animal byproducts from their feed.

Consumer have concerns over possible health issues that might arise from feeding animal byproducts to livestock grown for human consumption. These concerns have created demand for “vegetarian” diets for farm animals.

In addition, consumer demand is driving the shift to antibiotic-free poultry production. Eliminating antibiotics is often followed by a reduction in performance and an increase in outbreaks of necrotic enteritis (NE).

Restrictions to pure vegetarian diets and the use of antibiotics has resulted in additional challenges for many poultry producers. Higher feed conversion ratios, lower growth rates and lower yields have been experienced. Wet litter and poor foot pad quality are also common. It is apparent we are losing beneficial components by making the shift away from animal byproducts in poultry diets. One important component that has been identified is Creatine – from Greek “Creas” = flesh. Creatine was first isolated from meat in 1847. Creatine is only associated with animal proteins in nature. In contrast, plants do not contain any creatine so plant-based diets are missing this vital nutrient.

The essential function of creatine

Creatine is a compound that is naturally produced by vertebrates from amino acids and stored in various tissues, but especially in muscle and those tissues with a high, fluctuating energy demand. It is required for energy metabolism in the cells as the creatine– phosphocreatine system is the immediate power reserve to recharge ATP from ADP.

Today’s faster growing broilers  demand more creatine,  but receive less of it

Whole body Creatine content for one broiler in 1957 vs. today measured in grams

In contrast to other nutrients like carbohydrates, protein or fat, the stored phosphocreatine is readily available, comparable to a reserve battery within each cell. This stored energy is ready in times of high energy demand or stress.

The majority (>95%) of the body creatine pool is found in muscle cells. However, other cells including brain, heart, marcophages and sperm cells have a critical need for creatine.

The use of creatine supplements by humans is widely recognized as safe. Supplementation with creatine is proven to improve muscle strength, cognitive abilities and physical performance. It is also useful to maintain muscle mass as humans age.  Knowing the importance of creatine to animal and human health, the move to vegetarian diets for animal and humans alike impacts general health, growth and performance.

At 56 days of age, modern broilers are roughly 365% (4202 vs. 905 grams) of the weight of 1957-type broilers. Furthermore, a 12% increase in hot carcass yield (74.4 vs 62.4 %) in 57 day old Ross 308 broilers versus 1957-type broilers is reported. Most of this difference was accounted for by a near doubling of the pectoralis major yield (16.8% vs 8.8%) so the increase in broiler is disproportionately due to increased muscle.

Assuming a creatine content 5 grams/ kilogram muscle and a 60% meat yield, the creatine content of a 56 day old broiler has increased from 2.72 grams vs 12.6 grams compared to the 1957-type bird. Feeding vegetarian diets means that birds have to produce all this creatine endogenously.

A scientific approach to solving the creatine deficit problem

AlzChem is a German company with a history in creatine manufacturing and application. Since its initial success with the introduction of supplements for athletes in 1992, Creapure® - creatine monohydrate brand for human nutrition - has been one of the AlzChem company’s flagship products and is recognized as the leader in the category.

AlzChem recognized the challenges of delivering additional creatine for animal production. The company leveraged its extensive background in creatine manufacturing and knowledge of creatine metabolism to solving the problem. The investigation focused first on whether creatine might be a candidate for providing the missing link in animal protein-free production for animal feed. We have established that creatine is crucial, not only in human nutrition, but also to other high performing animal species for food production like poultry. Yet a practical solution remained elusive.

Animal proteins often fall short

Direct feeding of creatine in modern poultry production, however, is problematic.

An investigation of natural creatine sources for poultry nutrition revealed that even meat meal, fishmeal and other animal derived proteins are very low in their creatine content and highly variable with a span of 20 g. The likely reason is that creatine is not stable in high heat and high moisture conditions – the two most common processes applied in the production of animal proteins for feed.

Finished feed for broilers and turkeys is almost universally pelleted. During this process the creatine present is subjected to high heat and moisture. Therefore, the direct addition of creatine via animal byproducts often fails to provide adequate, consistent creatine enrichment in pelleted animal feed.

Heat stability for GAA is superior to Creatine

However, it was discovered that the direct endogenous precursor of creatine, guanidinoacetic acid (GAA) is stable when subjected to heat and moisture. While creatine levels are reduced by about 30% at 90.5 °C pelleting temperature, GAA shows much higher retention. AlzChem has perfected the formula and production of a non-hygroscopic, freeflowing GAA marketed as Creamino®. It contains 96% GAA and has been shown to increase muscle creatine levels more than 20% when fed as directed.

Feeding Creamino® also spares the Arginine that would normally be used for producing GAA and creatine in the body. This spared Arginine is available for other uses including synthesis of protein and nitric oxide, a compound critical for some types of immune response. Feeding trials with Creamino® have shown beneficial effects in broiler performance compared to both vegetarian and animal protein containing diets.

Based on feeding studies of rations including GAA, one might conclude that creatine may have been limiting for bird growth even with the addition of fishmeal in the diet.

Creamino® provides energy for healthy growth

A combination of reduced dietary creatine and increased muscle mass may challenge the ability of broilers and turkeys to produce enough creatine for optimal growth from de novo synthesis. GAA is readily converted to creatine in the body.

Creamino® contains a guaranteed level of GAA in a flowable, non-hygroscopic, virtually dustfree formulation which holds up under pelleting temperatures. Creatine is absent from plantbased, animal protein-free diets. Further, animal proteins may not contain adequate or dependable creatine levels. Feeding trials demonstrate improvements in bird performance with the addition of Creamino® GAA as a source to supply creatine.

Gains are supported with supplemental Creamino®

Gains as measured in grams/ day with and without fish meal

Creamino® supplementation lowers Feed Conversion Ratio (kg/kg)

Altogether these facts suggest that creatine is part of what is missing from both vegetarian diets and diets containing animal proteins with low creatine content.

Creamino® is the best solution for supplying creatine via GAA available today. Its patented formulation was specifically designed and is approved to effectively address the Creatine deficit present in commercial feed rations. It remains the only reliable, heat-stable option for increasing creatine availability in animal diets using modern feed production methods. 

Creatine: The missing link for healthy growth

by Dr. John Thomson, Sales Manager US, AlzChem LLC and Dr. Ulrike Braun, Product Manager, AlzChem Trostberg GmbH

 

Reduced animal proteins and “All Vegi” Feeds – are we missing something?

We are feeding less animal protein to broilers and turkeys today compared to 10 years ago. Animal proteins were banned for a time from livestock feeds in Europe due to concerns over public health. The complete ban has been revised but animal protein use remains low. Consumer concerns over possible health issues that might arise from feeding animal proteins back to livestock have created a demand for products from  “vegetarian-fed” animals in other markets, including the US.

Nowadays, consumer demand is driving the shift to antibiotic-free poultry production. However, this shift is often followed by a reduction in performance and increase of illnesses like necrotic enteritis outbreaks.  Animal protein products, especially fishmeal, introduce an additional risk factor as they have been  associated with higher occurance of NE. This association has led many antibiotic-free systems to reduce or eliminate animal by-products from their feeds.

Removing animal proteins from feeding programs has not been a smooth process for many producers.  Feed conversion, growth rate and yield sometimes suffer. Wet litter and poorer foot pad quality are common. Are we losing beneficial components by shifting to animal protein-free poultry diets?

Creatine – from Greek “Creas” = flesh – has been first isolated from meat in 1847 and is generally associated with high meat quality. Hence, animal derived proteins are natural sources of creatine. In contrast, plants do not contain creatine. Are we missing creatine in in pure plant based diets?

Function of creatine

Creatine is a compound that is naturally produced by vertebrates from amino acids and stored in various tissues but especially in muscle and those tissues with a high, fluctuating energy demand. It is required for  energy metabolism in the cells as the creatine-phosphorcreatine system is the immediate power station to  refuel ATP from ADP.  In contrast to other nutrients like carbohydrates, protein or fat, the stored phosphorcreatine is readily available, comparable to a reserve battery, in times of high energy demand or stress. 

The majority (>95%) of the body creatine pool is found in muscle cells, however, other cells including brain, heart, marcophages and sperm cells have a critical need for creatine. In humans, in-born errors in creatine  synthesis and uptake are associated with locomotor problems and abnormal brain development. On the other hand, creatine is well-established and approved in human sports nutrition to improve muscle strength and physical performance.

May a lack of creatine induce the potential to lose performance when changing to  “All Vegi” feeding?

Higher creatine demand but reduced supplies

At 56 days of age, modern broilers are roughly 365% (4202 vs 905 grams) of the weight of 1957-type broilers.  Furthermore, a 12 percentage point increase in hot carcass yield (74.4 vs 62.4 %) in 57 day old Ross 308 broilers versus 1957-type broilers is reported. Most of this difference was accounted for by a near doubling of the pectoralis major yield (16.8% vs 8.8%). So, the increase in broiler is disproportionately due to increased muscle. Assuming a creatine content 5 grams/ kilogram muscle and a 60% meat yield, the creatine content of a 56 day old broiler has increased from 2.72 grams vs 12.6 grams compared to the 1957-type bird. Feeding plant-based diets means that birds have to produce all this creatine endogenously!

AlzChem is a German company with a history in creatine  manufacturing and application since its initial  success in sports application in 1992. Creapure®, AlzChem´s creatine brand for human nutrition, has been one of the company’s flagship products for the past 25 years. An extensive background in creatine manufacture and knowledge of its metabolism led AlzChem to investigate whether creatine might be a  candidate for the missing link in animal protein-free production. Maybe, creatine is crucial not only in  human sports nutrition but also other high performing species, as found in our poultry today.  

Animal proteins may not fill the gap

Direct feeding of creatine in modern poultry production, however, is problematic, even for producers using animal protein products. An investigation on natural creatine sources for poultry nutrition revealed that even meat meal, fishmeal and other animal derived proteins are very low and highly variable in their creatine content.

The likely reason for this is that creatine is not stable in high heat and high moisture conditions, the two most common processes applied in the production of animal proteins. Finished feed for broilers and turkeys is almost universally pelleted in some markets, again introducing high heat and moisture. Therefore, direct addition of  creatine is a poor candidate for creatine enrichment of animal feed. However, it was found that the direct endogenous precursor of creatine, guanidinoacetic acid (GAA) is stable during heat and moisture. While creatine levels are reduced by about 30% at 90.5 °C pelleting temperature, GAA shows near to 100% retention.

AlzChem has perfected the production of a non-hygroscopic, free-flowing GAA marketed as Creamino.  Creamino, which contains 96% GAA, has been shown to increase muscle creatine levels more than 20%  when fed as directed. Feeding Creamino also spares the Arginine that would normally be used for producing GAA and creatine in the body. This spared Arginine is available for other uses including synthesis of protein and nitric oxide, a compound critical for some types of immune response.

Feeding trials with Creamino have shown beneficial effects in broiler performance compared to All-veg and animal protein containing diets. Based on this study, it might be concluded that indeed creatine may have been limiting for bird growth even with fishmeal in the diet.

Creamino: Energy for healthy growth

A combination of reduced dietary creatine and increased muscle mass may challenge the ability of broilers and turkeys to produce enough creatine for optimal growth from de novo synthesis. GAA is readily converted to creatine in the body. Creamino contains a guaranteed level of GAA in a flowable, non-hygroscopic, virtually dust-free formulation which holds up pelleting temperatures. Creatine is absent from animal protein-free diets and is at a low, undependable, level even in diets that contain animal proteins. Feeding trials demonstrate improvements in bird performance from Creamino as a source of creatine. Together, these facts suggest that creatine is at least part of the missing link for healthy growth in animal protein-free diets and diets with low creatine content. 

Creamino is the only feed additive specifically designed for and approved as a source of creatine in animal feeds.

Adequate muscle creatine  – why is it important for broilers?

By Dr. Ulrike Braun, AlzChem Trostberg GmbH

 

Birds are omnivorous species, they are evolutionarily designed to consume products from plant and animal origin. However, for several reasons, poultry nutrition is shifting more and more to a vegetable diet. This shift has resulted in losing some important benefits of animal products, including creatine, an essential compound found in meat but not in plants.

Does creatine in processed animal proteins reflect natural levels?

A feed ingredient survey conducted at AlzChem showed that creatine values found for meat meal (n=38) or fish meal (n=25) are low (median at 0.2 and 1.1 g/kg respectively) and drastically below the values expected from fresh origins when calculated on dry matter (16.7 g/kg from fish, 21.7 g/kg from meat). So, creatine is lost on the way from the original natural substance to the feed ingredient. (Table 1)

Table 1 : Creatine contents in fresh fish or meat on DM compared to fish meal or meat meal in g/kg

Why is creatine important?

Creatine is an essential molecule for cellular energy supply. Its active form phosphocreatine is the immediate backup reservoir in the body to replenish ATP, the central energy source in the cell. As without ATP any cell will die, the body stores
creatine for times when ATP need is higher than production via mitochondria or metabolism of carbohydrates or lipids. If creatine is not provided from food, body creatine levels are compromised and must be supplied entirely by de novo endogenous synthesis from amino acids. The body can run short in ATP on many occasions.

To name a few:

  1. Rapid growth, where important amounts of  ATP are absorbed for protein synthesis
  2. Excitement or stress, not only for escape  but also for marcophages to fight pathogens
  3. Low oxygen supply leading to low ATP  production
  4. Disturbed energy metabolism, i.e. impaired  mitochondrial function

All of these conditions are also found in poultry animal husbandry and might have increased over the past years. Broiler growth has improved dramatically since the last 50+ years (roughly a factor of four since 1957). Growth was directed specifically to increased carcass (+12%) and breast meat yield (+50%). White muscle (such as chicken breast) consists almost solely of muscle fibers high in creatine (fast twitch type IIb fibers). Knowing that creatine not only supports myogenesis but also stabilizes cell membranes, can we speculate that the substantial carcass and breast muscle growth was supported by elevating muscle creatine?

In fact, in 1956, just ~3gr creatine per kg muscle are reported in 21d broilers fed practical diets, but ~4 gr/kg muscle are found in 2018 for broilers of the same age (+33%). It seems evident that more creatine is stored in the muscle to support growth. Are these levels adequate?
 

Creamino® improves muscle creatine to support protein accretion. Energy for healthy growth!

Options to provide creatine to broilers

Dietary supplementation with creatine has proven to increase muscle creatine by roughly 20% in humans. Effects are most pronounced when natural creatine from food is low. Creamino®, a preparation containing the creatine precursor guanidinoacetic acid (GAA, 96 % min), is established as a highly efficient source of creatine for broilers. A dose range of 600-1200 mg/ kg feed was derived from growth experiments whilst ~ 600 mg/kg are suggested from a factorial calculation. Interestingly, 1086 mg creatine/kg feed would be obtained from 5% inclusion of fish meal containing creatine as present in dry fish (21.7 g/kg), so falling in the same range as derived for Creamino®. (Figure 1)

Comparison to fish meal: Creamino® Improves muscle creatine, growth and breast yield

Creamino® has been shown in numerous experiments to elevate muscle creatine in broilers. In a comparison study (d0-39) with ROSS 308 broilers, fishmeal (PC) added at 6%, 3% and 3% in starter, grower and finisher diet respectively showed very low impact on muscle creatine (+3%) as compared to the pure plant based control (NC, corn/soy). This was expected from the poor creatine content in the fishmeal (1.7 g/kg). In contrast, Creamino® added at 0.06% or 0.12% improved muscle creatine content (+11% and +16% respectively), (Figure 2, top). Performance effects were most striking in the grower phase (p<0.5) and overall (p<0.1), where 0.12 % GAA improved FCR by 4 points, whilst PC and NC were not different. Contrast analysis showed that Creamino® groups improved final body weight compared to the pure plant based diet as did the fish meal diet. Creamino® groups had higher breast meat yield but similar leg yield, whilst fish meal had no effect on breast meat yield and even reduced lower leg yield. Carcass yield and breast meat yield were clearly highest from the 0.12% Creamino® treatment (+0.6% and +0.5% compared to NC and PC for carcass yield, +1.3% and +0.5% compared to NC and PC for breast meat yield), altogether proving the relevance of muscle creatine for growth and protein formation. (Figure 2, bottom) Poult. Sci. (2012), 91, 402-412

Improved muscle creatine counteracts Arginine imbalance and supports lean meat

Physiological creatine levels in the body modulate the endogenous syntheses of GAA from arginine and glycine via the AGAT enzyme. When serum creatine levels are high because of saturated muscle creatine, AGAT is downregulated and arginine and glycine are released for other purposes. In diets low in arginine, this effect is highly relevant. This is evidenced by a feeding experiment for only two weeks (d13-27) with broilers fed an Arg-deficient basal diet or the basal diet with stepwise additions of L-Arg up to the requirement and with or without Creamino®. Supplementing Creamino® increased muscle creatine and bird performance at all levels of dietary Arg. Looking at the extremes (0.90% and 1.25% total Arg), Creamino® showed highest response in muscle creatine at the lowest Arg-level (+32% at lowest Arg and +18% at adequate Arg). 0.06% Creamino® or 0.35% L-Arg added to the 0.90% Arg diet achieved the same muscle creatine level. (Figure 3 top) Interestingly, independent of arginine, a trend towards elevation of breast muscle protein was observed (p=0.1 for Creamino and L-Arg), in line with the well established effect for creatine in human application. (Figure 3, bottom) Poult. Sci. (2019), 98(E-Suppl.1),158, Eur. Symp. Poult. Nutr. (2013), 19

Conclusion

There is clearly a deficiency of creatine in today´s broilers. Even when fed diets containing animal proteins, muscle creatine stores are not adequately filled. Creamino® is an effective source of creatine as confirmed by improved muscle creatine and protein accretion.

Energy for healthy growth!