The Horse

MAR 2019

The Horse:Your Guide To Equine Health Care provides monthly equine health care information to horse owners, breeders, veterinarians, barn/farm managers, trainer/riding instructors, and others involved in the hands-on care of the horse.

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NUTRITION TheHorse.com/Nutrition KRISTEN JANICKI, MS 30 March 2019 The Horse | TheHorse.com T hey might not be magical cure-alls, but with benefits such as reducing inflammation and skin reactivity to allergens, omega-3 fatty acids could be considered go-to supplements for horse owners wishing to improve their horses' health and performance. Omega-3 fatty acids are long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), which help provide structure to cell membranes in tissues across the body. Once incorporated into cell membranes, omega-3 and -6 fatty acids can elicit a slew of metabolic effects in tissues, such as helping regulate cell signaling. Omega-3s can also be cleaved from the cell membrane to produce eicosanoids, a type of immune system messenger used to inhibit inflammation. With horses, specifically, added PUFAs have many benefits, such as improving exercise parameters, lowering heart rate, increasing sperm production in breeding stallions, improving immune response, and potentially improving insulin sensitiv- ity, or the body's responsiveness to the hormone insulin signaling the removal of glucose from the blood after a meal. Equids do not have the ability to produce PUFAs and must meet their daily requirements with dietary sources known as essential fatty acids. When we say a feed or ingredient is high in omega-3 fatty acids, we're usually referring to the 'par- ent' fatty acid alpha linolenic acid (ALA) or its derivatives docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), the most biologically active omega-3s. After ingestion and absorption of ALA, enzymes convert it to DHA and EPA. Horses, however, might have a limited ability to convert ALA to DHA or EPA. In a study conducted at the University of Florida, ALA-supplemented equine diets failed to influence DHA or EPA levels in blood or plasma (Vineyard et al., 2010). A team from Colorado State Uni- versity (CSU) determined that EPA and DHA supplementation might be needed to modify fatty acid composition in horses (Ross-Jones et al., 2014). However, another team at CSU did observe ALA 's conversion to EPA and DHA, as indicated by increased levels of these fatty acids in study horses' muscle (Hess et al., 2012). Obviously, there's still a lot to understand regarding ALA versus EPA and DHA. So, what's the best source of omega-3 fatty acids through either ALA, EPA, or DHA? Let's take a look. Plant Sources Because horses are herbivores, vegetable-derived omega-3 fatty acid sources make up most of the equine supplements on the market today. How- ever, fats from plant sources only serve as a source of ALA and, therefore, when consumed must be converted to EPA and DHA by the body. Forage (pasture and hay) , the founda- tion of a horse's diet, is a major source of nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids make up about 55% of the fat in grass and 18-35% of the fat in hay. Granted, forages only contain about 3% total fat. But considering the amount consumed per day, forages will always be the most vital source of omega-3s in the diet purely by volume. Canola oil , which is derived from rape- seed, has the highest omega-3 fatty acid content of the vegetable oils, although it's still significantly lower than its omega-6 level (of its total fat content, about 11% is omega-3 fatty acids versus 21% omega-6 fatty acids). Soybean oil is extracted from whole soybeans and, second to canola as a vegetable oil source of omega-3s, it has a total fat content that's 8% omega-3 fatty acids versus 54% omega-6 fatty acids. Chia seeds have one of the highest omega-3 fatty acid levels, containing 63% PAM MACKENZIE PHOTOS Omega-3s From Land To Sea Learn which omega sources are best for your horse Omega-3 supplements for horses come from either plant, such as the soybean hulls and oil pictured here, or marine sources.

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