The benefits of omega-3 supplementation in horses reach far and wide, influencing multiple body systems. Because horses cannot produce omega-3s, they must meet their requirement for these essential fatty acids through their diet. The most commonly used dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids are marine-derived oils and flax-derived products, such as flaxseed and flax oil (called linseed in some parts of the world).
How best to supply omega-3s in the diet is a question Kentucky Equine Research® recently investigated. The researchers measured changes in the fatty acid composition of red blood cells in exercising horses supplemented with flax oil or marine-derived oil in the form of EO-3™ for two months. Red blood cell membrane omega-3 fatty acid composition has been shown to be highly correlated with omega-3 fatty acid concentrations in body tissues. The primary omega-3 fatty acid contained in flax oil is alpha-linolenic (ALA), whereas EO-3 contains eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the two most potent anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.
The results of this study? EPA and DHA found in red blood cell membranes were significantly increased in the horses supplemented with EO-3, but not in those supplemented with flax oil, indicating horses do not appear to efficiently convert ALA into EPA and DHA.
Based on these findings, a direct dietary source of EPA and DHA like EO-3 is needed to affect long-chain omega-3 fatty acid content of red blood cell membranes.
ABOUT KENTUCKY EQUINE RESEARCH®
Kentucky Equine Research is an international equine nutrition research, consultation, and product development company serving both the horse producer and the feed industry. Its goal is to advance the industry’s knowledge of equine nutrition and exercise physiology and apply this knowledge to produce healthier, more athletic horses. For more information, see ker.com or call 888-873-1988.
Contact: Erin Ryder Hsu