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Feeding Facts: Know your starch from your sugars and your fibre from your fructans

applesCarbohydrate confusion?

The term carbohydrate (carbs for short) is often used in equine nutrition to describe the non-structural carbs including sugar and starch. But this is incorrect because fibre is also a type of carb. The main types of carbs in UK horse diets are fibre, starch, sugar and fructan.

Fibre – main supply is structural, found in forages e.g. grass and increases in content as the plant matures. Non-structural gums, mucilages and pectin found in a variety of feeds including sugar beet, apples, linseed and oats

Starch – cereal grains are a rich source, and as a result are relatively higher in energy than forages. Horses have an efficient but limited capacity to digest, so over-feeding is easy. No more than 1g of starch per kilo of bodyweight per meal is recommended. Over-feeding causes gut disturbance and ill health

Sugar – simple carbs found in UK grass, molasses and some compound feeds. Digested very efficiently in the horse and over-feeding does not overwhelm digestive capacity (but can lead to insulin resistance)

Fructan – like fibre because it cannot be broken down by gut enzymes, but like sugar in the effect it has in the horse’s body. The main storage carb of UK grasses and high intakes are linked to laminitis risk in susceptible animals. Small intakes have a probiotic effect.

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Posted in Equine Health, Equine Nutrition, Horse Feed
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