Unlocking the Benefits of Fermentation on Alfalfa Nutrients

Jenn Hoskins
22nd May, 2024

Unlocking the Benefits of Fermentation on Alfalfa Nutrients

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • The study by China Agricultural University focused on alfalfa silage fermentation using lactic acid bacteria
  • Fermentation increased the total flavonoid content in alfalfa silage by up to 17.93%
  • The antioxidant activity of alfalfa silage was significantly enhanced through fermentation
Oxidative stress, a condition where harmful molecules called free radicals damage cells, is a significant threat to animal health. Flavonoids, a group of natural compounds found in plants, are known for their antioxidant properties, which help neutralize these free radicals. However, the impact of fermentation on flavonoids and their antioxidant activity in forage remains unclear. A recent study conducted by China Agricultural University aims to investigate the effect of lactic acid bacteria inoculation on the biological transformation of flavonoids in alfalfa silage fermentation and its relationship with antioxidant activity[1]. Flavonoids are widely recognized for their health benefits, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties[2]. They are abundant in fruits, vegetables, grains, and teas, and play essential roles in plant biology and human health. The bioactivity of flavonoids largely depends on their chemical structure, particularly the substitution patterns in their C6-C3-C6 rings[2]. In the context of animal feed, alfalfa is a common forage crop due to its high nutritional value. Ensiling, a process of preserving forage through fermentation, is often used to maintain its quality. During ensiling, lactic acid bacteria ferment the sugars in the forage, producing lactic acid, which preserves the forage. The study by China Agricultural University focused on how this fermentation process affects the flavonoids in alfalfa silage and their antioxidant activity. The researchers inoculated alfalfa silage with lactic acid bacteria and monitored the changes in flavonoid content and antioxidant activity throughout the fermentation process. They found that the fermentation led to a significant transformation of flavonoids, increasing their concentration and enhancing their antioxidant activity. This transformation was attributed to the breakdown of flavonoid glycosides into more bioactive aglycones, which are more readily absorbed and utilized by the body[3]. This finding aligns with previous research on the metabolism and bioactivity of flavonoids. For instance, flavonoids often occur in foods as glycosides, which are less bioactive due to their sugar moieties. The conversion of these glycosides into aglycones, as demonstrated in the study, enhances their bioactivity[3]. This process is similar to the biotransformation of citrus flavonoids using lactic acid bacteria, which also resulted in higher antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities[3]. Moreover, the study provides insights into the role of insoluble-bound phenolics in plant cells and their metabolism in the human digestive system. Insoluble-bound phenolics, including flavonoids, are primarily located in the cell wall matrix and are released during food processing or fermentation[4]. This release increases their bioavailability and bioactivity, contributing to their health benefits, such as anticancer and cardiovascular disease ameliorating effects[4]. The enhanced antioxidant activity observed in the fermented alfalfa silage can be attributed to the structural changes in flavonoids during fermentation. The breakdown of glycosides into aglycones likely increased the number of hydroxyl groups, which are known to confer substantial antioxidant activity[5]. Additionally, the fermentation process may have facilitated the formation of more stable flavonoid radicals through conjugation and electron delocalization, further enhancing their antioxidant properties[5]. In conclusion, the study by China Agricultural University demonstrates that lactic acid bacteria inoculation during alfalfa silage fermentation significantly enhances the antioxidant activity of flavonoids by transforming them into more bioactive forms. This finding not only highlights the potential of fermentation to improve the nutritional quality of animal forage but also aligns with previous research on the metabolism and bioactivity of flavonoids in the human diet. Future research could explore the specific mechanisms underlying these transformations and their implications for animal and human health.

AgricultureBiochemPlant Science


Main Study

1) Insights into fermentation with lactic acid bacteria on the flavonoids biotransformation of alfalfa silage

Published 21st May, 2024


Related Studies

2) Plant flavonoids: Classification, distribution, biosynthesis, and antioxidant activity.


3) Combined acid hydrolysis and fermentation improves bioactivity of citrus flavonoids in vitro and in vivo.


4) Insoluble-Bound Phenolics in Food.


5) Flavonoid antioxidants: chemistry, metabolism and structure-activity relationships.

Journal: The Journal of nutritional biochemistry, Issue: Vol 13, Issue 10, Oct 2002

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