Zearalenone (ZEA), a common contaminant in food and feedstuffs, threatens human and animal health. The present study aimed to investigate the protective effects of modified palygorskite (MPal), a ZEA-targeted adsorbent, on broilers (young chickens) fed a ZEA-contaminated diet. Broilers were subjected to one of three treatments for a period of 42 days: a basal diet (control group), a ZEA-contaminated diet, and a ZEA-contaminated diet supplemented with 1 g/kg of MPal. Blood was collected for serum metabolite assay, and liver and kidney were sampled to determine ZEA residue and antioxidant-related parameters, using commercial spectrophotometric kits. Compared with the basal diet, the ZEA-contaminated diet resulted in compromised growth performance (reduced daily gain and feed intake during finisher period), disordered relative liver weight (decreased at 21 days but increased at 42 days), increased ZEA residue in liver and kidney, abnormal serum metabolites (decreased total protein content but increased alanine aminotransferase activity at 21 and 42 days, reduced albumin content at 21 days, and elevated aspartate aminotransferase activity at 42 days), and disrupted antioxidant capacities of broilers (increased total superoxide dismutase (T-SOD) activity in liver at 21 and 42 days, decreased T-SOD activity in kidney at 21 and 42 days, and in serum at 42 days, greater malondialdehyde accumulation in liver and kidney at 42 days, and lower glutathione content in kidney at 21 days). The adverse consequences resulting from the ZEA-contaminated diet were relieved by the supplementation of MPal (except albumin concentration in serum and T-SOD activity in liver at 21 days), with the values of growth-performance parameters, liver weight, renal ZEA accumulation, total protein content, transaminase activity at 42 days, and antioxidant indexes being similar to those in the control group. These results suggested that MPal supplementation could promote growth performance, attenuate liver damage, and improve the antioxidant abilities of broilers fed ZEA-contaminated diet by reducing ZEA accumulation.

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