One of the most common equine health challenges is maintaining a healthy weight: not too fat, not too thin. Horses with issues such as Cushing’s and metabolic syndrome can pose an even greater management problem for horse owners.
As we know, diet and exercise are critical to maintaining healthy weight in horses. With the caretaking of easy keepers and those with metabolic imbalances, being vigilant about the sugar and starch content of hays, forages and feed (referred to as NSC — non-structural carbohydrates) is of primary importance. A decade ago, very few people had their hay tested for an NSC percentage. Now it’s almost a requirement in the management of easy keepers and metabolic horses.
Obesity in horses: contributing factors
Long ago, the grasses horses ate were not the high-calorie grasses of today, but mediocre to poor-quality prairie grasses and native grasses. To keep themselves nourished, horses evolved to graze, moving miles a day in search of food. Even today, the wild horse bands in Nevada travel up to 15 miles a day browsing for food. Meanwhile, our stall-bound and pasture-bound horses eat much richer grasses and hays, and don’t have to cover 15 miles a day for sustenance. The reduced physical activity can be a contributing factor to obesity.
Although no research specific to equines has been done yet, a multinational collaborative team of researchers from Norway, Austria, Hungary, Ireland, Turkey, and Australia conducted experimental feeding studies over a ten-year period with genetically modified soy and corn. The rats, mice, salmon and pigs that were fed these GMO products got fatter quicker compared to animals fed a non-genetically engineered diet. The findings, published July 11, 2012 by Forskning.no (an online news source devoted to Norwegian and international research), showed that animals fed genetically engineered food ate more, got fatter and were less able to digest proteins due to alterations in the micro-structure of their intestines.
Genetically modified soy, soy oils, and soy byproducts are among the most common ingredients in commercial horse feeds.
Another compelling and possible contributor to obesity in equines is the herbicide glyphosate (famously known as Roundup). Ten independent, published research studies on animals demonstrate that glyphosate interferes with the biochemistry of bacteria in the GI tract, depleting the essential amino acids tyrosine, tryptophan, and phenylalanine. The disruption of bacteria in the gut can contribute not only to obesity, but also inflammatory bowel disease and other immune challenges.
Interestingly, research showed that the most beneficial bacteria in the gut (primarily Lactobacillus, Bacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Enterococcus) are the most adversely affected by glyphosate. The more harmful bacteria such as Salmonella actually increased when exposed to the same levels of glyphosate in the gut.
Vascular dysfunction in metabolic horses
In addition to the weight concerns involved with metabolic syndrome and Cushing’s disease, a study published September 29, 2016 (“Vascular dysfunction in horses with endocrinopathic laminitis”) showed that endothelial dysfunction associated with these disorders affects the laminar vessels and facial skin arteries of the horse. What this means is that the inner lining of blood vessels do not dilate fully, causing constriction and the reduction of healthy circulation.
Metabolic supplements: What’s really in them?
If you are managing an easy keeper or a metabolic horse, you know how diligent you must be when choosing ingredients. Even feeds labeled “low starch” may not show the actual NSC percentage of the feed. Reading through the labels of popular metabolic supplements for horses can be a bit of a shock; ingredients like corn, wheat, and rice are included in the formulas. Genetically engineered soy is also a common ingredient, and not a beneficial one for metabolic horses. Other surprising ingredients can include maltodextrin (a food additive produced from corn starch, whose glycemic index is higher than table sugar), the preservatives calcium propionate and sodium propionate, and the popular “natural and artificial flavorings.”
To address all of the above — the obesity and vascular dysfunction afflicting horses with Cushing’s and metabolic syndrome, and the questionable ingredients found in the commercial supplements meant to help them — BioStar has formulated Optimum Healthy Weight.
Advanced whole food nutrition for metabolic horses
Optimum Healthy Weight is the first supplement of its kind: a whole-food multivitamin/mineral supplement for easy keepers and metabolic horses that has been tested for NSC (9.8%) and includes the most advanced Ayurvedic extracts for the management of weight, healthy blood glucose levels, healthy endothelial function, and reduced inflammation.
Optimum Healthy Weight combines super whole foods such as organic spirulina for its superior plant-chelated mineral content, organic kelp for additional minerals and thyroid support, and organic kale for the sulfur that’s essential to tissue elasticity, antioxidant production, and regulation of metabolism.
The addition of Crominex
Optimum Healthy Weight is also unique in that it contains the patented ingredient Crominex® 3+. This ingredient is a complex of trivalent chromium with Ayurveda’s Indian gooseberry extract Capros®, and the ancient Ayurvedic resin from the Himalayans known as shilajit.
Crominex has seven published studies behind it, including one on horses (“Therapeutic efficacy and safety evaluation of a novel chromium supplement in…horses”. Kristi May, Ramesh C Gupta et al. Jacobs Journal of Veterinary Science Research. 2015, 2 (1); 014).
Crominex brings several benefits to Optimum Healthy Weight:
- Supports healthy endothelial function, dilating the inner lining of blood vessels to improve circulation.
- Provides shilajit, a nutrient and mineral biomass found in the Himalayans that contains fulvic and humic acids, along with over 80 ionic minerals. Fulvic acids have been recently studied for their ability to improve gut health by closing the tight junctions of the gut — the same junctions that glyphosate exposure will, over time, prevent from closing properly. Research has shown that shilajit also improves the bioavailability of CoQ10 and can help regulate genes for collagen synthesis. Shilajit increases the efficiency of cellular mitochondria, helping in the production of ATP and thus increasing energy and stamina.
- Provides trivalent chromium, an important mineral for carbohydrate and lipid metabolism. Trivalent chromium was identified in 1959 as the active component of the “glucose tolerance factor” (GTF) molecule.
- Can help control blood glucose levels and improve the lipid profile (“Effect of shilajit on blood glucose and lipid profile…” Trivedi NA, Mazumdar B, et al. Indian Journal of Pharmacology. 2004;36:373-6).
- Significantly increases levels of antioxidants in the body, including vitamin C, vitamin E, glutathione, and superoxide dismutase.
- Provides mucosal protection to the GI tract and, in a 2012 study, showed antiulcer, regenerative and repairing effects on induced ulcers in rats. (“Anti-microbial, anti-oxidant and anti-ulcerogenic effects of Shilajit on gastric ulcer in rats.” Mohamed, I. Kotb El-Sayed, et al. American Journal of Biochemistry and Biotechnology. 8 (1(: 25-37, 2012).
Biostar’s Optimum Healthy Weight provides:
Organic spirulina, with its plant-chelated multi-mineral complex and full spectrum of amino acids.
Organic yeast flakes, which provide the B-complex including B-12, plus magnesium and copper.
Organic kelp harvested from Northwest Iceland, which provides bioavailable minerals including calcium, manganese, boron, zinc, iodine, and magnesium, plus vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin K, and folate. Kelp can improve thyroid function.
Organic kale, containing vitamins A, C, K, along with sulfur, which is a critical element required for biological activation of enzymes, synthesizing specific antioxidants, proper insulin function, and is an important component in the body’s production of glucosamine sulfate.
Almond powder, one of the richest sources of vitamin E, providing both alpha and gamma tocopherols.
Selenium yeast, providing an important antioxidant that is lacking in many pastures and hays.
Optimum Healthy Weight includes astragalus root, a member of the legume family that has been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine to reduce stress. This plant has demonstrated action to protect pancreatic beta cells — the cells that produce and release insulin.
Astaxanthin is a lipid-soluble carotenoid from microalgae that is considered a super-antioxidant because it can neutralize multiple free radicals (unlike other antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, which can bind only one free radical molecule at a time). On the ORAC scale of antioxidant values, Astaxanthin places higher than vitamin E, vitamin C, beta carotene, green tee, and resveratrol.
Other supportive foods in Optimum Healthy Weight
Organic black pepper, used traditionally in Ayurvedic medicine for the treatment of diabetes. Black pepper contains piperine, which studies have shown increases the bioavailability and effectiveness of other nutrients.
Sunflower lecithin (non-GMO), an important co-factor for the absorption of astaxanthin, sunflower lecithin also provides phosphatidylcholine, another important antioxidant and brain food.
Organic fennel seed, traditionally used for supporting digestion and balancing blood sugar.
Designed to address an array of issues involved with Cushing’s and metabolic syndrome horses, Optimum Healthy Weight by BioStar is a whole food multi-nutrient supplement for easy keepers and metabolic horses that provides the science and efficacy of ingredients to effectively assist in their management.
The ingredients in Optimum Healthy Weight will not interfere with thyroid medicine (Thyro-L) or pergolide mesylate (Prascend)