Oxidative stress, circulating antioxidants, and dietary preferences in songbirds

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Oxidative stress is an unavoidable consequence of metabolism and increases during intensive exercise. This is especially problematic for migratory birds that metabolize fat to fuel long-distance flight. Birds can mitigate damage by increasing endogenous antioxidants (e.g. uric acid) or by consuming dietary antioxidants (e.g. tocopherol). During flight, birds may increase protein catabolism of lean tissue which may increase circulating uric acid and many birds also consume an antioxidant-rich frugivorous diet during autumn migration. We evaluated three related hypotheses in a migratory passerine: (1) protein consumption is positively related to circulating antioxidants, (2) a dietary oxidative stressor [i.e. polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA)] influences antioxidant capacity and oxidative damage, and (3) oxidative stress influences dietary antioxidant preferences. White-throated Sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis) consuming a high protein diet increased circulating uric acid; however, uric acid, antioxidant capacity, and oxidative stress did not differ between birds consuming a high PUFA versus a low PUFA diet, despite increased oxidative damage in high PUFA birds. Birds did not prefer antioxidant-rich diets even when fed high PUFA, low protein. We conclude that White-throated Sparrows successfully mitigated oxidative damage associated with a high PUFA diet and mounted an endogenous antioxidant response independent of uric acid, other circulating antioxidants, and dietary antioxidants. © 2012 Elsevier Inc.

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Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology - B Biochemistry and Molecular Biology