Why are antioxidants important for your horse?
Stress, infection, detoxification of pollutants and exercise are a few factors that can lead to an increase in the production of excessive free radicals in the body. More correctly know as reactive oxygen species (ROS), these free radicals are oxygen-containing molecules that have unpaired electrons, which is a biologically unstable state.
At low levels, free radicals play an important role in cellular signalling but at high levels, ROS cause damage at a molecular and cellular level because they chemically interact with molecules in the body protein, fat or DNA, stealing their electrons in their quest to become stabilised.
This leads to a chain reaction of molecules stealing electrons within cells, which can lead to oxidative stress. The consequences of oxidative stress can show at a physiological level through poor health, reduced immune and reproductive system function and sub-optimal performance.
The role of antioxidants in the body is to neutralise free radicals by converting them into stable molecules. Oxidative stress occurs in the body when the number of detrimental reactive oxygen species becomes too high for the natural antioxidant defense system to detoxify their harmful effects through neutralization.
Antioxidants are specific vitamins, minerals, and enzymes including:
Vitamins E and C
Superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase
Flavenoids, glutathione, lipoic acid, and polyphenols.
Antioxidants are most effective when they are able to work together, so ensuring your horse has balanced levels of antioxidants contributes to better health. It is interesting to note that the optimal level of supplementation for some antioxidants is many times higher than the recommended daily minimum amounts published by the NRC. (This is also true for other minerals also in many cases).
Vitamin E is considered an important antioxidant which may support muscle, nerve and immune function. Scientists recommend including Vitamin E at five times the NRC minimum dietary inclusion to provide antioxidant effects. This means giving around 5000 IU/day to a 500 kg horse (Williams, C.A., 2013). When choosing a vitamin supplement, compare Vitamin E levels because it is often included in very low levels even though most horses are deficient in this vitamin.
Vitamin C is the main antioxidant used by the body for respiratory and immune health. It can also recycle other antioxidants, particularly vitamin E. Healthy horses do generate their own Vitamin C supply, but additional supplementation is recommended for horses subject to oxidative stress.
Vitamin E works hand in hand with selenium, but be careful not to overdose on selenium, particularly if you provide your horse with a suite of energy feeds and supplements. Many Australian soils are selenium deficient, so this mineral is often added to horse feeds. Be careful not to double dose on selenium through different feed sources as this is one mineral where toxicity levels are relatively low.
Superoxide dismutase may be effective in reducing tissue damage and inflammation through its antioxidant effect and ability to reduce levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines and neutrophil infiltration.
Supplementing stallions with the antioxidants L-carnitine and selenium as well as omega-3 supplementation has been shown to improve the quality of fresh, cooled and frozen semen (Freitas, M.L. et al, 2016).
Many plants, herbs, and extracts, as well as animal products, are sources of antioxidants including flavonoids and polyphenols. There is a wealth of anecdotal evidence supporting the use of various blends and ingredients but they have not been proven safe or effective in horses due to lack of research. The interactions between some of these substances and potential impacts on medication rules are not clearly understood.
We recommend Equine Vit&Min to take the worry out of balancing the diet of your high-performance horse boosted with Farmalogic Melox, antioxidants for horses. Equine Vit&Min provides sufficient A, B, D and E vitamins to fill in the dietary gaps for all key vitamins and minerals, without risk of toxicity when fed according to the directions. Additional antioxidants can be added separately to achieve oxidative balance.
Farmalogic Melox is a scientifically balanced blend of antioxidants to support horses undergoing oxidative stress induced by intense exercise or immune challenge.
Protects tissues from free-radical oxidant damage during oxidative stress, injury or illness.
Reduces muscle and cell membrane damage during intense exercise. Improves semen quality and quantity.
Stimulates production of primary antioxidants.
Stimulates horses’ natural defenses and helps to maintain a healthy immune system.