Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Laminitis research: Even healthy older horses have increased insulin responses

New research, conducted in collaboration with the SPILLERS® horse feed company in Great Britain shows that even healthy older horses have increased insulin responses, compared to younger horses, in response to a starch-rich or starch- and sugar-rich meal.

These findings suggest that older horses, whether or not they have been diagnosed with insulin dysregulation, need an appropriate diet and management plan to help minimize the risks associated with insulin dysregulation such as laminitis.

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. The release of insulin signals cells, especially in the muscle and liver, to take up glucose from the blood. A high level of insulin in the blood (known as hyperinsulinemia) may or may not be accompanied by insulin resistance (failure of cells to respond appropriately to insulin). 

This is why a new term, insulin dysregulation, is now used and refers collectively to excessive insulin responses to sugars, and/or fasting hyperinsulinaemia and/or insulin resistance. 

Insulin dysregulation has been linked to a higher risk of laminitis.

New research
Two new studies, conducted by the parent company WALTHAM®, who provides the science underpinning the SPILLERS® brand, in collaboration with Michigan State University, aimed to find out more about the relationship between insulin dysregulation, dietary adaptation, and aging to help guide more appropriate feeding regimens for senior horses.

Both studies investigated tissue insulin resistance and the insulin response in healthy adult horses compared to healthy senior horses adapted to diets with varying levels and sources of hydrolysable and structural carbohydrate (starch, sugar, and fibre).

Results from both studies showed that insulin responses tend to increase with age in healthy horses, regardless of the diet they had been fed prior to evaluation. The insulin response, for example, was highest in the senior horses fed a starch-rich meal even when they had been adapted to such a diet.

Research relevance
Clare Barfoot, a registered nutritionist in the United Kingdom and research and development manager at SPILLERS® said: “These studies confirm that even healthy older horses can have an increased insulin response compared to younger animals. This suggests that the energy sources used in the diet of senior horses and their effect on insulin dynamics need to be carefully considered. 

"Practically, this means restricting the overall amount of starch and sugar in the diet especially for those horses that already have additional risk factors such as obesity, (British) native breeding or PPID*.”

These studies, which have been published in The Veterinary Journal and Equine Veterinary Journal, are two of a number of exciting SPILLERS® research collaborations aimed at helping to benefit the lives of senior horses in the UK and around the world.

• • • • •

* Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction, formerly known as "Equine Cushing's Disease"

To learn more:

Rapson J.L. , Schott II H.C. , Nielsen B.D. , McCutcheon L.J. , Harris P.A. & Geor R.J. Effects of age and diet on glucose and insulin dynamics in the horse. Equine Veterinary Journal https://doi.org/10.1111/evj.12812

Jacob, S. I., Geor, R. J., Weber, P. S. D., Harris, P. A. and McCue, M. E. (2018), Effect of age and dietary carbohydrate profiles on glucose and insulin dynamics in horses. Equine Vet J. 50: 249 - 254. https://doi.org/10.1111/evj.12745

Note: The links will open abstract pages for both studies. University library access or a journal subscription is required to read the full text of these papers.

Click to learn more about HoofSearch, where both of these studies were presented to subscribers as soon as they were published. Click here to subscribe to the monthly linked reports on global hoof, laminitis and lameness research.

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