Trending in the equine nutrition world are the words ‘Essential Fatty Acids” so what are they? Do I need to add these to my horse’s diet?
We hear a lot about the three Omega 3 fatty acids Alpha Linolenic (ALA), Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). But did you know there are many more?
Mammals are unable to synthesize omega-3 fatty acids. Supplement feeding has taken popularity with the plant based omega 3 ALA found in Flaxseed, but only a small amount as low as 5% is actually converted into the necessary EPA and DHA. Fish oil (Cod Liver Oil) & Hemp Seed Oil on the other hand provides pre-formed ready to be utilised EPA and DHA Omega 3s in the right ratio.
Surprisingly for some, Pasture grass naturally offers a ratio of 1:4 (Omega6:Omega3) it simply can’t be beaten as the best source for your horse. When pasture is unavailable, then it is recommended by Kentucky Equine Research to supplement 60 ml/day of fish oil. (Pagan, Lawrence, Lennox)
Omega 3 Fatty Acids:
Alpha linolenic acid – ALA
Eicosapentaenoic acid – EPA
Docosahexaenoic acid – DHA
Hexadecatrienoic acid- HTA
Stearidonic acid – SDA
Eicosatrienoic acid – ETE
Eicosatetraenoic acid – ETA
Heneicosapentaenoic acid – HPA
Docosapentaenoic acid – DPA
We hear about the excesses of omega 6 fatty acids in the diet. High proportions of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fat in the diet shifts the physiological state in the tissues toward pathogenesis of many diseases. Omega 6 increase inflammation.
Animal feeds high in Omega 6 throw the correct dietary ratio out of balance. Feeds that are proportionately too high in Omega 6 to Omega 3 are vegetable oils (soybean, cotton seed, sunflower seed, corn, grapeseed, rice bran, peanut, sesame oils) Corn oil for example has an omega 6 to omega 3 ratio of about 45:1! Caution too with seeds like sunflower, sesame & pumpkin along with grains including corn, oats, wheat, quinoa and rice, not to be missed are legumes like soybean and peanuts that are very high in the Omega 6 fatty acids.
Omega 6 Fatty Acids:
Linoleic acid (LA)
Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA)
Dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA)
Arachidonic acid (AA)
Fortifying your horse’s diet with an omega 3 of at least 2-5 to 1 of omega 6 provides key health benefits. A healthy diet low in Omega 6 and high in Omega 3 (being naturally anti-inflammatory) can help reduce allergy symptoms. Research indicates these additional health benefits of increased Omega 3 uptake:
- Improved skin and hair coat quality
- Decreased joint pain
- Improved bone formation
- Reproductive benefits
- Prevention of gastric ulcers
- Alleviate allergic hyperactivity
- Support horses in heavy work
- Reduce exercise-induced bronchiole constriction
References of interest:
Heart disease and ovulation rate: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0952327899901011
Hair growth, quality and shine:
Pain and ulcers: