Say “NO” to Keto

Eleanor M. Kellon, VMD

Maybe it is the interest in getting in shape this time of year but I am being asked about keto dieting for horses again.

I wrote about the keto diet three years ago — —and won’t go into all that again but will emphasize a few things.

Equine metabolism is different. Like all herbivores, the horse has evolved to get most of his calories from fermentation of fiber. Humans can’t do that. The digestive tracts of the two species are too different.

Ketones are not a super fuel. They are a waste product of fat metabolism when more fat has been mobilized than the body can burn. No body cell or tissue type prefers ketones over glucose. Glucose is essential for life.

There is a saying that “fat burns on the flames of carbohydrate”. This is because fats can only be burned aerobically in the mitochondria. They have to enter the Krebs cycle. A key intermediate in that cycle is called oxaloacetate and that must come from pyruvate. Pyruvate only comes from glucose or breakdown of some amino acids.

Those interested in the details of the biochemistry should see this short video: . Note that the pyruvate they show entering the cycle as acetyl-CoA is from glucose. Fats are also metabolized to acetyl-CoA so also must combine with oxaloacetate.

Horses with metabolic syndrome are genetically programmed to be that way. Whether it becomes a problem or not depends on diet and exercise. They can go all day on hay alone and don’t require any grain. They certainly don’t need more fat or ketones.

Visit for more details.

About ECIR Group Inc.
Started in 1999, the ECIR Group is the largest field-trial database for PPID and EMS in the world and provides the latest research, diagnosis, and treatment information, in addition to dietary recommendations for horses with these conditions. Even universities do not and cannot compile and follow long term as many in-depth case histories of PPID/EMS  horses as the ECIR Group.

In 2013 the Equine Cushing’s and Insulin Resistance Group Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation, was approved as a 501(c)3 public charity. Tax deductible contributions and grants support ongoing research, education, and awareness of Equine Cushing’s Disease/PPID and EMS.

THE MISSION of the ECIR Group Inc. is to improve the welfare of equines with metabolic disorders via a unique interface between basic research and real-life clinical experience. Prevention of laminitis is the ultimate goal. The ECIR Group serves the scientific community, practicing clinicians, and owners by focusing on investigations most likely to quickly, immediately, and significantly benefit the welfare of the horse.

Contact:  Nancy Collins

Stock photo available