Vitamin E Supplements for Horses & Dogs
After many years of searching, we finally found a vitamin E complex of tocopherols and tocotrienols that meets our high standards. Our new ingredient is sourced from non-GMO sunflower oil, hexane-free, and grown and expeller-pressed in Spain. We are the first equine supplement company to access this amazing oil and all its benefits.
Why is vitamin E so important?
Vitamin E is quite a fascinating nutrient — or, I should say, family of nutrients. You see, vitamin E is actually 8 different compounds, hence the term “vitamin E complex”. The one we all are most familiar with is alpha-tocopherol, but there are 7 others that exist with alpha in various foods. In fact, in nature, alpha-tocopherol does not exist on its own at all.
- Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant for horses, dogs, and humans. By binding and neutralizing free radicals, vitamin E protects cells from oxidative damage.
- Vitamin E is also important for healthy nerve function.
- Increased exercise creates more free radicals due to muscle energy and oxygen demand, and a higher need for antioxidants like vitamin E.
- Pregnant and lactating mares and dogs have an increased need for vitamin E.
Supplementing vitamin E for horses
Common sources of vitamin E for horses are quality pasture and hay.
Horses need to be on quality pasture for at least 10-12 hours per day to get their required vitamin E. For many horses, turnout is limited to just a few hours, and sometimes on dry lots.
Hay provides varying levels of vitamin E because this vitamin degrades and decreases over time, particularly because it is heat sensitive. For horses in training and competition, hay just isn’t going to provide enough vitamin E.
How much vitamin E does my horse need?
According to the National Research Council’s (NRC), the 2007 requirement for vitamin E is 500 IU per day for a 1100 lb horse at rest. A horse in light work needs 800 IU, and horses in hard work need 1,000 IUs. Many nutritionists feel this needs to be reevaluated due in part to higher percentages of fat in many equine feeds, which requires more antioxidants like vitamin E.
The interesting part of vitamin E supplementation is that each horse metabolizes vitamin E differently. We can feed a group of horses the same complete feed and hay, with approximately the same amount of exercise and rest and turnout, and the exact same amount of daily supplemental vitamin E, and when we pull the blood to see where the levels of vitamin E are, some horses in the group may be normal, some high, and some deficient.
It is very important, therefore, to run a blood sample once or twice a year to see where your horse’s vitamin E levels are, as well as selenium.
How much vitamin E does my dog need?
Common food sources of Vitamin E for dogs are: eggs, salmon, avocado, trout, spinach, safflower oil, sunflower oil, and soybean oil
If your dog isn’t getting enough vitamin E in his diet, a supplement is recommended.
The Vitamin E Family
Vitamin E is not a single compound. It is a family of compounds that exist in nature: the four tocopherols (alpha, beta, gamma, and delta), and four tocotrienols, (alpha, beta, gamma, and delta).
Foods that provide both tocopherols and tocotrienols include palm oil, rice bran, sunflower seeds, wheat, barley, oats, rye, soybeans, coconut, plums, and kiwi.
*Unfortunately, foods that are rich in tocotrienols, like palm oil and rice bran oil, have often been processed or altered so that the tocotrienols have been removed.
Alpha-tocopherol in supplements and feeds
Alpha-tocopherol is the most widely used tocopherol in supplements (humans, horses, and dogs). For a long time, the prevalent view was that only alpha-tocopherol was important. Early researchers of the vitamin E complex concluded that since human plasma levels of alpha-tocopherol are 10 times as high as gamma-tocopherol, that alpha must be the most important tocopherol.
The synthetic form of alpha tocopherol is delineated as dl-alpha tocopherol on a label. The natural form is delineated as d-alpha tocopherol.
Obviously, we are not fans of the synthetic form. It is not as bioavailable as the natural form extracted from plant oils, because it is not absorbed well via the liver and transport proteins. In addition, synthetic forms of alpha tocopherol are derived from petroleum extracts.
D-alpha tocopherol acetate begins with extraction of the alpha tocopherol from soy, canola or palm. The alpha-tocopherol is combined with acetic acid in a process of esterification. This process ensures a longer shelf life. Note that it is this form of alpha-tocopherol that has been implicated in the lung damage of those who vape. Luckily horses and dogs aren’t vapers.
D-alpha tocopherol succinate is an ester of alpha tocopherol from soy, rapeseed, or palm. Succinic acid is an organic acid used as a precursor to generate chemicals such as solvents, perfumes, lacquers, dyes, and photographic chemicals. Succinic acid is naturally formed by most living cells as an outcome of anaerobic digestion.
Water soluble (or micellized) d-alpha tocopherol: this form of vitamin E is achieved with “microsphere absorption technology that encloses the lipophilic portion inside hydrophilic spheres that facilitate transport and absorption in the body.”(1) This variation of vitamin E is especially beneficial for rapid increases in vitamin E levels in horses. Unlike the other forms of d-alpha tocopherol, this water-soluble form does not need fat for absorption.
Popular versions of water soluble E are Nano-E from Kentucky Equine Research, and Elevate E from Kentucky Performance Products.
Most d-alpha tocopherol is processed and extracted from soy oil or palm oil, and to a lesser extent canola oil. Companies do not have to identify the plant source of vitamin E on labels.
Benefits of gamma-tocopherol
Gamma tocopherol is the predominant member of the vitamin E family in sesame seeds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, pecans, potatoes, peanuts, soybeans, quinoa.
Gamma-tocopherol is coming out of the shadows of alpha-tocopherol, as research has increased on this notable tocopherol. In the last decade, more research has demonstrated the benefits of gamma-tocopherol including the ability to inhibit COX-2 activity (an enzyme responsible for inflammation and pain) and inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory prostaglandin 2. Alpha tocopherol showed no anti-inflammatory activity.
- Gamma tocopherol can protect against nitrogen-based free radicals, which are associated with chronic inflammation. This is something alpha tocopherol cannot do.(2)
- Taking large doses of alpha tocopherol depletes plasma levels of gamma-tocopherol.
- Gamma-tocopherol exhibits anti-inflammatory activity in vitro and in vivo.(3)
- Gamma-tocopherol can bind to reactive nitrogen oxide species (RNOS) which alpha tocopherol cannot.
- Gamma-tocopherol may provide interventional treatment for metabolic syndrome.(4)
- Gamma tocopherol supplementation increases both alpha tocopherol and gamma tocopherol in plasma and tissue.(5)
- Recent research has demonstrated gamma tocopherol’s role as a therapeutic agent in Alzheimer’s disease by improving mitochondrial function and reducing mitochondrial membrane permeability.(6) Although horses don’t suffer from Alzheimer’s, studies are showing that higher brain gamma tocopherol levels are associated with higher levels of presynaptic protein levels which can reduce risks of cognitive decline.(7)
- Taking large doses of alpha-tocopherol depletes plasma levels of gamma-tocopherol.
Beta- and delta-tocopherols
Beta- and delta-tocopherols provide antioxidant support, particularly against Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS).
Delta-tocopherol may play a role in anti-tumor activity and is being studied for promising factors that may act against cancer.(8)
Supplementing a diet with the singular alpha-tocopherol has shown to reduce serum concentrations of gamma- and delta-tocopherols. In other words, too much alpha-tocopherol creates an imbalance of the other tocopherols.(9)
Tocotrienols, found in palm oil, rice bran, sunflower seeds, wheat, barley, oats, rye, soybeans, coconut, plums, and kiwi, have a high degree of mobility in cell membranes. Like tocopherols, they are potent antioxidants. In Vitro studies indicate that tocotrienols exhibit anti-cancer, cardio-protective, and neuro-protective effects.(10)
The importance of the whole
A study from Rutgers University (Center of Cancer Research), April 2012, found that gamma tocopherols and delta tocopherols are beneficial in preventing certain cancers, while alpha tocopherol has no such benefit. According to one of the researchers (Chung S. Yang),
“A mixture of vitamin E that resembles what is in our diet would be the most prudent supplement to take.” (13)
Research published in Nutrition Research (2005) showed that the tocopherol family had better antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions than alpha tocopherol alone.(14)
BioStar and vitamin E
We’ve been searching for a vitamin E complex that meets BioStar’s requirements for several years. Vitamin E oils we have found – until now – have not before met our requirements:
2. We will not use palm oil because of the environmental devastation currently being caused by the expansion of new palm plantations in Indonesia. This has resulted in one-third of the rain forest being burned to establish new palm plantations, and the displacement of the Sumatran tiger, Sumatran elephant, and the Orangutan.
3. We will not use isolates (vitamins and minerals isolated from their whole food source). D-alpha tocopherol is a great example of an isolate. It is only one member of the tocopherol family. Biostar believes nature created the tocopherols together as part of the matrix of vitamin E. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.(15)
4. Oils such as soy, palm and canola are commonly processed with a solvent called hexane. A filtration process removes the free fatty acids, other tocopherols and tocotrienols. Hexane contributes to air pollution by reacting with pollutants to form ozone and photo chemicals.(16)
We finally found a vitamin E complex of tocopherols and tocotrienols from non-GMO sunflower oil, hexane-free, and grown and expeller pressed in Spain. We are the first equine supplement company to access this amazing oil and all its benefits.
Coming October 31, 2021: Sunn-E 1000 EQ & Sunn-E K9
Sunn-E 1000 EQ and Sunn-E K9 provide alpha-, beta-, delta-, and gamma-tocopherols. Alpha and gamma being the most prominent in this sunflower oil, with small amounts of delta tocopherol and the tocotrienols. One equine serving provides your horse with 1,982 IU of vitamin E tocopherols.
Our unique vitamin E supplement is available in a convenient liquid for horses and a smaller-sized liquid supplement for dogs, packaged with a reusable oral syringe.
We’re excited to finally have a vitamin E supplement that meets our standards and provides owners with a whole food vitamin E complex.