• bloat;
  • conjugated linoleic acids;
  • methanogenesis;
  • nitrogen metabolism;
  • ruminants;
  • tannins


Tannins (hydrolysable and condensed tannin) are polyphenolic polymers of relatively high molecular weight with the capacity to form complexes mainly with proteins due to the presence of a large number of phenolic hydroxyl groups. They are widely distributed in nutritionally important forage trees, shrubs and legumes, cereals and grains, which are considered as anti-nutritional compounds due to their adverse effects on intake and animal performance. However, tannins have been recognised to modulate rumen fermentation favourably such as reducing protein degradation in the rumen, prevention of bloat, inhibition of methanogenesis and increasing conjugated linoleic acid concentrations in ruminant-derived foods. The inclusion of tannins in diets has been shown to improve body weight and wool growth, milk yields and reproductive performance. However, the beneficial effects on rumen modulation and animal performance have not been consistently observed. This review discusses the effects of tannins on nitrogen metabolism in the rumen and intestine, and microbial populations (bacteria, protozoa, fungi and archaea), metabolism of tannins, microbial tolerance mechanisms to tannins, inhibition of methanogenesis, ruminal biohydrogenation processes and performance of animals. The discrepancies of responses of tannins among different studies are attributed to the different chemical structures (degree of polymerisation, procyanidins to propdelphinidins, stereochemistry and C[BOND]C bonding) and concentrations of tannins, and type of diets. An establishment of structure–activity relationship would be required to explain differences among studies and obtain consistent beneficial tannin effects. Copyright © 2010 Society of Chemical Industry