Birds choose flavanoid rich foods, Bird nutrition and food research

Birds Naturally Choose Flavonoids

April 8, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

Recent studies conducted at the University of Freiburg, in conjunction with the Max Plank Institute for Ornithology, have revealed that fruit-eating birds show a definite preference for fruit with higher concentrations of antioxidants. These antioxidants help them to sustain a healthy immune system.

Researchers have been studying the effects of antioxidants – particularly flavonoids – for some time now, but much of the research has been conducted in test-tubes up until now. This was the first time that the effect of flavonoids on the immune system in living animals has been conducted. The results were surprising. The researchers in Germany offered the little blackcap fruit-eating birds a choice of two foods. The foods were identical in every respect except for the concentration of flavonoids contained inside the fruit. The birds repeatedly chose the food with the added flavonoids. Thus they demonstrated a natural preference for fruits with higher levels of this sort of antioxidant.

The researchers also conducted studies to see if the flavonoids affect the bird’s health to any degree. They discovered that birds in the control group who were not fed antioxidants had weaker immune systems than those who were fed modest levels of flavonoids for four weeks. The flavonoids were fed to the birds in the form of one or two blackberries, bilberries or elderberries on a daily basis. While birds may be able to have more than this during the peak of the short berry season, researchers thought it more appropriate to study the levels that would be available on a more long-term basis. The study clearly shows that flavonoids can boost the immune systems of living organisms and that wild birds actually show a preference for foods containing flavonoids. The results of this research will be further used to study the ecological relationship between plants and birds as well as other animals that disperse seeds.

Some might argue that the berries with more flavonoids make the food darker in color and this is why the birds chose them. However the studies revealed that blackcaps do not show a color preference if the food is nutritionally identical, so they are confident that blackcaps choose the darker berries because they know they have a high flavonoid value. Flavonoids can be found in high concentrations in fruits and vegetables and are one of the most common antioxidants naturally available. So best take a lesson from the birds and make sure to eat all your fruit and vegetables to ensure that you stay healthy.