The biological action of saponins in animal systems: A review

George Francis, Zohar Kerem, Harinder P.S. Makkar, Klaus Becker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1209 Scopus citations


Saponins are steroid or triterpenoid glycosides, common in a large number of plants and plant products that are important in human and animal nutrition. Several biological effects have been ascribed to saponins. Extensive research has been carried out into the membrane-permeabilising, immunostimulant, hypocholesterolaemic and anticarcinogenic properties of saponins and they have also been found to significantly affect growth, feed intake and reproduction in animals. These structurally diverse compounds have also been observed to kill protozoans and molluscs, to be antioxidants, to impair the digestion of protein and the uptake of vitamins and minerals in the gut, to cause hypoglycaemia, and to act as antifungal and antiviral agents. These compounds can thus affect animals in a host of different ways both positive and negative.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)587-605
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Nutrition
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2002


  • Biological activity
  • Saponins
  • Steroids
  • Triterpenoids


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