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Fatty acids are the building blocks of fats in the same way that amino acids are the basic unit of proteins. When picking a fat for your horse, you should be guided by the fatty acid levels.
The fat content of the horse’s natural diet is quite low – about 4% during peak grazing season and much lower when grass is not growing, or forage has been cut and dried. The fat in grasses contains less than 20% saturated fatty acids, primarily palmitic. Of the unsaturated fatty acids, 60+ percent is alpha-linolenic aka C18:3 omega-3 fatty acids and the remainder a mixture of omega-9 C18:1 oleic acid and omega-6 C18:2 linoleic acid.
You have probably heard that omega-6 fatty acids are inflammatory and omega-3 anti-inflammatory, but it’s not really quite that simple. Both are needed for healthy and balanced immune activity.
Omega-6 linoleic acid [LA] is converted to arachidonic acid [AA]. This is found in very high concentrations in the brain and skeletal muscles, and in cell membranes. If an inflammatory reaction has been triggered, AA can be a source of immune system inflammatory chemicals, but it cannot trigger inflammation by itself. AA is also essential for muscle growth in response to exercise. Training athletes supplemented with AA actually have lower levels of inflammatory cytokines. LA is especially important for skin and coat health.
Omega-3 alpha-linolenic [ALA] is also converted into the phospholipids of cell membranes and its derivative DHA is as abundant in the brain as AA [above]. Other derivatives of ALA participate in the homeostasis of inflammatory responses and support the activity of the sophisticated arm of the immune system which in turn makes the nonspecific inflammatory reactions less necessary.
Omega-9 oleic acid is incorporated into phospholipids of cell membranes. Like all the unsaturated fatty acids it helps keep membranes supple. It is the most common fatty acid in the popular human Mediterranean diet and associated with healthy lipid profiles in the blood.
Although it hasn’t been formally studied in horses, it is assumed horses can manufacture all the fatty acids they need with the exception of the essential fatty acids alpha-linolenic omega-3, and linoleic, omega-6. Grasses typically have about 4 times as much omega-3 as omega-6 fatty acids.
Horses are fed supplemental fat to boost calorie intake, improve skin and coat health and shine, and provide the essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fat may be of additional benefit in active horses, for promoting muscle growth. Good sources include:
- Coconut oil: Extremely palatable. Also rich in medium chain triglycerides, which are the easiest to metabolize for energy. Low essential fatty acids.
- Flaxseed oil: Very high in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3:omega-6 ratio similar to grass. Low saturated fat.
- Soybean oil: High omega-6, moderate omega-9 and omega-3, low saturated fat.
High oleic sunflower oil: This specialty type of sunflower oil is high in omega-9 oleic acid (like olive oil) and low in essential fatty acids. This makes it a great way to promote weight gain and coat condition without upsetting the balance of essential fatty acids.
Uckele Health & Nutrition, maker of CocoSoya®, offers 3 CocoEQ Fatty Acid Formulas in Oils and Granulars.
CocoSoya Oil is Uckele’s Flagship Product! CocoSoya provides a healthy fat and cool-calorie energy source to build and maintain healthy weight while supporting healthy blood sugar levels. Promotes a healthy skin, a glossy coat and excellent body condition. Helps to keep hooves nourished and moisturized by supporting the waterproof barrier.
CocoSoya Granular is Uckele's flagship product in a convenient granular! It provides all the advantages of the original CocoSoya Oil.
CocoOmega Oil is a non-GMO and soy free formula that supplies fatty acids in the ideal ratio that mimics the ratio of 4 to 1 Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids found in fresh forages. Promotes a glossy, healthy coat, and supports skin, hooves and joint function by retaining moisture in the cells and tissues to maintain healthy hydration.
CocoOmega Granular is a Non GMO and soy free granular with all the benefits of CocoOmega oil in an easy-to-feed and transport dry granular formula.
CocoSun Oil is a non-GMO and soy free formula with all natural ingredients! Promotes a shiny coat and provides a cool-calorie energy source to build and maintain healthy weight without a blood sugar rise. This rich source of Omega 3, 6, and 9 also provides support for healthy inflammatory responses, fat metabolism, cardiovascular, and brain function.
CocoSun Granular is a non-GMO and soy free formula with all the unique advantages of CocoSun Oil in a convenient, easy-to-feed granular form. This rich source of Omega 3, 6, and 9 also provides support for healthy inflammatory responses, fat metabolism, cardiovascular, and brain function. Also excellent for weight management, supple skin, a shiny coat, and healthy hooves.
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About Dr. Kellon
Dr. Eleanor Kellon, staff veterinary specialist for Uckele Health & Nutrition, is an established authority in the field of equine nutrition for over 30 years, and a founding member and leader of the Equine Cushings and Insulin Resistance (ECIR) group, whose mission is to improve the welfare of horses with metabolic disorders via integration of research and real-life clinical experience. Prevention of laminitis is the ultimate goal. www.ecirhorse.org
Uckele Health & Nutrition, maker of CocoSoya, is an innovation-driven health company committed to making people and their animals healthier. On the leading edge of nutritional science and technology for over 50 years, Uckele formulates and manufactures a full spectrum of quality nutritional supplements incorporating the latest nutritional advances. www.uckele.com.