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Nutritional Benefits Of Soy And Palm Oil In Horse Diets


Martin W. Adams, PhD, PAS – Equine Nutritionist for Southern States

A girl feeding a small horseOrigins

Both soy and palm oils are widely used in human foods. Palm oil is produced primarily in tropical regions with 83% of world production from Indonesia and Malaysia. Soy oil used in food and feed is produced primarily in the United States.

Fatty Acid Profiles

Soy and palm oils differ in their fatty acid composition especially with regards to the percent saturated fat and their content of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Fatty Acid Profiles of Soy and Palm Oils

 

Saturated Fat

Oleic Acid

Omega-6's

Omega-3's

Soy Oil

14%

24%

54%

7%

Palm Oil

50%

39%

10%

0%

Grass Pasture

23%

2%

20%

56%

Clover Pasture

29%

3%

21%

45%


Soy oil is higher than palm oil in unsaturated fats and in particular in the Omega-3 fatty acids. Soy oil’s fatty acid composition is more similar to pasture grasses.

Nutritional/Metabolic Effects Of Soy And Palm Oils In Horse Diets

There is evidence that feeding higher levels of fat can enhance athletic performance in horses by increasing the uptake of fatty acids by the muscle and maintaining muscle glycogen. Horses can safely utilize high fat diets and fat is a digestible source of energy, even when fed at levels of 10% of dietary dry matter (Hintz, 1994). Using fat as a source of energy allows reduction in the starch and soluble carbohydrate concentration in the diet, which in turn can reduce the risk of colic and other digestive disturbances.

Researchers at the University of Utrecht Veterinary College in the Netherlands found that adding soy oil in place of glucose to increase dietary fat content from 3% to either 5%, 7.7% or 10.8% of dry matter had significant effects on fat metabolism of horses. Increasing dietary soy oil increased plasma lipoprotein lipase (LPL) an enzyme involved in fatty acid metabolism. Increased LPL is linked to an increase in the uptake of plasma free fatty acids by muscle. This in turn increases the oxidative (energy releasing) activity of the horse's muscle and may enhance equine performance (Geelen et al., 2000).

In contrast to the effects of soy oil, other studies have found no effect of feeding either palm oil or a special supplement of medium chain fatty acids at the level of 10.6% of the diet on plasma LPL activity (Hallebeek and Beynen, 2001).

Benefits Of Soy Oil In Horse Nutrition

Soy oil is a high quality source of fat in equine diets and a good source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. In some studies feeding soy oil has had beneficial effects on lipid metabolism in horses. Palm oil is not a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and has not been shown to have any specific benefits on equine fat metabolism.

References

Geelen, SNJ, et al, 2000. Lipid metabolism in equines fed a fat rich diet. Int. Journal Vitamin Nutrition Research; 70:148-152.

Hallebeck, J.M. and A.C. Beynen. 2001. Effect of dietary medium chain triglycerols on plasma triacylglycerol levels in horse. Archives of Animal Nutrition.

Hintz, H.F. 1994. Nutrition and Equine Performance.  Journal of Nutrition 124:2723S-2729S.

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