Don’t Forget the Vitamin E for your Horse!
Vitamin E is one of the essential vitamins that horses cannot synthesize or make in their bodies. Unlike the B vitamins, which are produced in concert with the microbiota in the hindgut, vitamin E must be provided through food. Fresh forage is the best food source of vitamin E for horses.
What does vitamin E do?
Vitamin E plays an important role in health and performance as a “super antioxidant,” by protecting tissues and cells from harmful free radicals. Without antioxidants like vitamin E, free radicals and oxidative stress can cause irreparable damage to cell membranes. Because it’s a fat-soluble vitamin, vitamin E can incorporate itself directly into cell membranes and help protect them.
Vitamin E is essential for the reproductive, circulatory, immune, muscular, and nervous systems of the body.
Does my horse get vitamin E from hay?
While hay does provide Vitamin E, only small amounts survive the cutting, baling, and drying process. It’s estimated that 86% of vitamin E content is lost in the haying process.
Horses who are on hay all winter, on dry lots, or on restricted access to fresh forage will need to be supplemented with vitamin E.
Can my horse get enough vitamin E from a complete feed?
The answer to this: possibly.
The National Resource Council’s (NRC) basic vitamin E requirement is 500 IUs per day for a horse not in work. Most complete feeds provide 100-150 IUs of vitamin E per pound. If feeding the label-recommended servings per day (for example, 3 pounds) plus access to fresh pasture (6-8 hours per day), your horse will have adequate amounts of vitamin E.
• For horses in light work, the NRC’s minimum vitamin E requirement is 800 IU/day.
• For horses in heavy work, the NRC’s minimum vitamin E requirement is 1,000 IU/day.
Keep in mind, the NRC’s requirements have not been updated since 2007. Many vets and nutritionists find these vitamin E requirements to be too low — and absolutely inadequate for horses with EPM, metabolic syndrome, tying-up syndrome, equine degenerative myeloencephalopathy, equine motor neuron disease, Lyme disease, and PSSM.
Vitamin E supplementation
Fortunately, there are a lot of brand choices when it comes to supplementing with vitamin E. Unfortunately, this can also lead to confusion. Let’s start with two basic choices: synthetic and naturally sourced.
Synthetic versus naturally sourced vitamin E
The chemical structures of synthetic vitamin E and vitamin E from a natural source are different. The differences are seen when evaluating serum levels in the body. Naturally sourced vitamin E raises serum levels of vitamin E faster and lasts longer than synthetic vitamin E.1
• Synthetic vitamin E is delineated on the label as dl-alpha (or dl-α) tocopherol.
• Naturally sourced vitamin E is delineated on the label as d-alpha (or d-α) tocopherol.
Why is d-alpha tocopherol vitamin E so popular?
Vitamin E is made up of two families of compounds known as tocopherols and tocotrienols. Each family is subdivided into four members, or types: alpha, beta, gamma and delta.
Fifty years ago, scientists believed that alpha tocopherol (or α-tocopherol) was the most bioavailable of all these components, based in part on the percentage of alpha tocopherol found in the human body.
Now, modern science is better understanding the health benefits of the other tocopherols — beta, gamma, and delta — which are naturally available together in certain foods. Gamma tocopherol, for instance, works as an anti-inflammatory and reduces oxidative stress in the brain.2
Other recent research has shown that supplementing with high levels of alpha tocopherol by itself actually reduces serum levels of the other tocopherols, including gamma.3
While many supplements provide d-alpha tocopherol, it’s one fractionated part of the much larger whole vitamin E complex essential for optimal health. Supplementing with only the d-alpha tocopherol component is like feeding your horse calcium with no other macro- and micro-minerals.
Vitamin E from soy or palm
Most d-alpha tocopherol vitamin E you’ll find is derived from soy or palm.
Soy is becoming a very common allergen in horses based on allergy-testing. If your horse has tested positive for soy allergies, be sure to check with your vitamin E supplier to find out the source of the vitamin E you are giving your horse.
Another issue with soy is that 95% of soy grown in the US is genetically modified to withstand glyphosate exposure (Round-Up®). The EPA is now evaluating whether the current acceptable level of glyphosate residue in food needs to be changed.
Palm is also concerning. Palm plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia, which produce more than 85% of the world’s palm oil, have caused an environmental catastrophe for the rainforests. In Borneo alone, palm plantations have burned one-third of the rainforests. In addition, the destruction of natural habitats has affected the survival and populations of Sumatran tigers, Sumatran elephants, and orangutans.
What’s the alternative to soy and palm?
Sunflower oil to the rescue! Sunflower oil is a wonderful full-spectrum food source of the whole vitamin E family of tocopherols, and some tocotrienols.
BioStar’s Sunn-E full-spectrum vitamin E
BioStar’s Sunn-E 1000 is oil from non-GMO sunflowers grown in Spain. The oil is expeller-pressed to retain all the tocopherols: alpha, beta, gamma, delta. This means your horse gets all the benefits of the whole food, the way nature intended. Sunn-E 1000 provides 1981.7 IU per 3 ml.
Our highly concentrated full-spectrum vitamin E liquid makes it easy to supplement your horse at 2-3 ml per day.
🐾 Dogs need Vitamin E too! Try Sunn-E K9!
1 – https://ker.com/antioxidants/nano-e/
2 – https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-65570-4
3 – https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/133/10/3137/4687537