Omega-3 balancing act: is your horse getting enough?

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“data-medium-file =” https://i1.wp.com/www.horsetalk.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/stock-1404503.jpg?fit=300%2C186&ssl=1 ” data-large-file = “https://i1.wp.com/www.horsetalk.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/stock-1404503.jpg?fit=800%2C496&ssl=1” loading = “lazy” class = “wp-image-120277 size-full” src = “https://i1.wp.com/www.horsetalk.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/stock-1404503 .jpg? resize = 800% 2C496 & ssl = 1 “alt =” Most commercially fortified feeds contain more omega-6 than omega-3 fatty acids, creating an imbalance that can lead to increased inflammation throughout the horse’s body. “width =” 800 “height =” 496 “srcset =” https://i1.wp.com/www.horsetalk.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/stock-1404503.jpg?w= 800 & ssl = 1 800w, https: // i1.wp.com/www.horsetalk.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/stock-1404503.jpg?resize=300%2C186&ssl=1 300w “size = “(max-width: 800px) 100vw, 800px” data-recalc-dims = “1” /> picture by April Anderson

Your horse has a question: do you feed me omega-3 fatty acids every day?

You already know the answer should be yes. But over the years I’ve found that there is a 50:50 chance that this question will be answered with “no”.

Not out of neglect, but simply because many horse owners are not aware of why they are important or what feed they contain. Or they just assume that the commercial food they are feeding already contains enough.

But here’s the truth … most commercially fortified feeds contain more omega 6 than omega 3, creating an imbalance that is harmful to your horse’s health. And the hay you feed … well, it lost its omega-3 content a long time ago

Why are omega-3 fatty acids so important?

There are only two fatty acids that are called “essential”, which means that they must be taken in with food every day, as the horse’s body cannot produce them itself. The first essential fatty acid is an omega-6 fatty acid known as linoleic acid (LA) and the other is an omega-3 fatty acid known as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

Both have specific roles but especially omega-3 fatty acids, are involved in functions such as:

  • Protection of blood vessels, heart, lungs, digestive tract, bones and joints.
  • Establishing hormonal balance, including helping with insulin resistance.
  • Promote a healthy immune response and protect against allergies and skin problems.
  • Protecting the brain from inflammatory diseases, especially PPID (Cushing’s disease) and leptin resistance.

Both must be contained not only in the food, but also in the right proportion to each other. Ideally, there should be more ALA (omega 3) than LA (omega 6). However, when LA is higher it leads to increased inflammation throughout the body.

Healthy pasture grasses contain, on average, a lot of ALA and LA in an ALA to LA1 ratio of 4: 1 during their growing season. And if your horse is fortunate enough to graze in the pasture for most of the year, there is generally no need to worry about additional nutritional supplements (unless your horse suffers from inflammatory diseases that affect immune function, allergic reactions and chronic ones Pain).

Food supplement for a hay-based diet

Essential fatty acids decrease when the grass is not actively growing, so your horse is likely to need hay during the colder months of the year. Year round supplementation is required for horses consuming hay forage because live grass has been cut, dried, and stored into hay, with most, if not all, of the essential fatty acids oxidized and destroyed.

Your commercial foods may not be a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Most of the fat in commercially fortified feed comes from soybean oil (sometimes referred to as “vegetable oil”), which is extremely high in omega-6 with very little omega-3. However, some newer formulas include flax and chia seeds to improve the ratio.

Choose organic if possible

Organically grown feed has a lower detectable level of pesticides and herbicides. Exposure to these chemicals, especially over time, can be harmful to your horse’s health. Interestingly, nutrients like antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids are more abundant in organic plants because they are not oxidized by commercial chemicals

Concentrated sources of ALA

Ground flax or chia seeds are the most popular whole-food sources of ALA. The nice thing about feeding these is that they also provide protein, which improves the overall protein quality of the food. USDA certified organic versions3 offer the highest nutritional value for your horses.

The following dosages are recommended:

  • Ground flaxseed: 2 ounces by weight (equal to 1/2 cup) per 400 pounds of body weight (120 ml per 180 kg of body weight).
  • Chia seeds: 2 ounces by weight (equivalent to 1/4 cup) per 400 lbs of body weight (60 ml per 180 kg of body weight).

The amounts can be reduced in overweight horses and increased in horses with special health needs.

Algae oil contains an omega-3 fatty acid called “DHA”. In your horse’s cells, ALA is converted to DHA. DHA is highly active in reducing inflammation, Protect metabolic states again.

Hemp seeds are interesting. The fat in hemp seeds is excellent, although the ratio of ALA to LA is reversed. There is 2.8 times more LA than ALA, so it would be useful to add some flax or chia as well. However, what makes the fatty acid content of hemp seeds remarkable is the gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) content. GLA is an omega-6 fatty acid, but unlike other omega-6 fatty acids that increase inflammation, GLA reduces it.

Oils with high ALA content are flaxseed oil and camelina oil. Flaxseed oil is not that easy to use. It becomes “sticky” and easily oxidizes, which requires cooling.

Camellia oil comes from the edible seeds of Camelina Sativa. It’s high in ALA with a 2.4: 1 ratio of ALA to LA, and its shelf life is far superior to flaxseed oil. This is due to its remarkably high vitamin E content: 100 ml (a little less than half a cup) camelina oil contains 150 IU of natural vitamin E, which protects the fatty acids from oxidative damage when exposed to air, moisture and light.

Bottom line

Healthy, growing pasture grasses provide the horse with many essential fatty acids in the right proportions. A diet that consists of hay, like most commercially available feeds, is out of whack or even contains the necessary omega-3 fatty acids that must be fed daily. Adding chia seeds, ground flaxseeds, or other whole foods can help your horse maintain its health for a lifetime.

1 Boufaied, H, Chouinard, PY, Gremblay, GF, et al., 2003. Fatty acids in feed. I. Factors Affecting Concentrations. Canadian Journal of Animal Science, 83 (3), 501-511.
2 Mayo Clinic. Organic food. Are you safer? More nutritious?
3 milled organic flax seeds and organic chia seeds are available in Dr. Getty’s Shop for Free Shipping.

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