The Importance of Antioxidants in the Horse’s Diet

Do you remember when antioxidants were all the rage as the latest and greatest thing in supplements?  Other topics catch most of the headlines these days, but antioxidant activity underlies some of the effects of currently popular ingredients like curcumin and even cannabinoids.

Oxygen free radicals, aka reactive oxygen species (ROS) are oxygen-containing products of metabolism that are missing an electron, making them unstable. Normal cellular metabolism, immune system activities, exercise, and cellular clean-up after injury all generate ROS. Diets high in fat or carbohydrate, and metabolism of drugs and toxins also generate oxidative stress, as do chronic health problems.

These substances will attack proteins, DNA, and structural membranes both inside and around cells to steal an electron. The molecule attacked then becomes a free radical itself and a chain reaction can be started. The process weakens and can even destroy the tissues under attack.

Antioxidants protect against ROS by donating an electron to stabilize them and prevent attack on the tissues. Antioxidants can be either fat soluble, located primarily inside the structure of membranes, or water soluble, protecting the watery environment inside and outside the cells.

The body has a variety of antioxidant enzymes such as catalase and SOD - superoxide dismutase. These are manufactured by the cells, as are the important intracellular antioxidants N-acetyl-cysteine, glutathione and alpha-lipoic acid. Vitamins Niacin, C, E and A have potent antioxidant activity.

Foods can also supply plant-based antioxidants.  The horse's diet is naturally rich in plant antioxidants such as carotenoids, flavonoids and polyphenols. Fresh green plants of all types have high levels, even grass. For example, Bermuda Grass is a sacred plant in India, where it is called Durva.

While excess ROS can be harmful, a healthy horse's body is one that has a correct homeostatic balance between antioxidants and free radicals. This balance is called the cellular redox state. The goal isn't to eliminate them entirely because at proper levels they have important activities such as stimulating the production of antioxidants, cell-to-cell signaling, gene function and enzyme activity.

The first step to ensure your horse has adequate antioxidant defenses is correct intake of B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin A/carotene as well as the amino acid L-glutamine and minerals copper, zinc, magnesium and selenium.

If nutrition has been optimized and the horse needs more antioxidant support, look to rich plant sources such as:

  • Grape seed and skin
  • Berries
  • Turmeric
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Ginkgo
  • Boswellia
  • Spirulina
  • Isolated plant compounds such as quercetin or mixed bioflavonoids.

Supporting antioxidant activity is one of the best things you can do as a natural approach to health because it enables the horse's body to use its own homeostatic system of checks and balances to protect itself.

 Uckele Health & Nutrition, maker of CocoSoya®, offers supplements that provide antioxidant support.

Bio-Quench provides natural antioxidants to help promote the immune system and promote protection from excessive oxidation that can generate free radicals. With a potent blend of plant antioxidants, antioxidant vitamins and B vitamins for optimal immune enhancing effects.  Also supports horses with seasonal allergies.

Phyto-Quench Pellets provide powerful antioxidants featuring Devil’s Claw to help maintain healthy immunity, especially for horses not on fresh pasture.  With phytonutrient rich ingredients for vascular and tissue integrity, Phyto-Quench fights the damaging effects of free radicals by neutralizing oxidative reactions to maintain a normal inflammatory response. Plant-based phytonutrients include Garlic, Devil’s Claw, Turmeric, Grape Seed, Ginkgo Biloba, and Boswellia.

Also available in a palatable powder that does not contain Devil’s Claw.

U-Balance Immune promotes optimal immune function with antioxidants, including bioflavonoids and herbs to help regulate excessive toxic free radicals and the damaging effects of the oxidative process. U-Balance immune also specifically addresses the health of the digestive tract to promote optimal immune function.

Lung Eq promotes overall equine respiratory, lung and immune health for horses with respiratory reactions to environmental irritants and seasonal allergens.

With Spirulina Platensis which may help stabilize the mast cells that release histamine. MSM supports normal regulation of inflammation.  Flaxseed meal promotes balanced inflammatory pathways.  Jiaogulan supports healthy histamine levels, open airways, and healthy immune response.

 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.

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.

Contact: Susan Libby,


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