Lipids are insoluble in water , they are made up of chains of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen and there are several different types.
The fatty acids can be saturated - where the chains are straight, or unsaturated - where the chains have some extra bonds in them and in this case they are much more susceptible to heat. Fatty acids are those we know as omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9.
Omega-3 and omega-6 can't be synthesised in the horse's body so they are called essential fatty acids. They must be taken in through the diet.
Why are fats and oils good?
· Omega-3 and omega-6 are important in regulating the immune system, maintaining the central nervous system, cell membranes and the transfer of oxygen.
· Fat is a concentrated source of energy - 1 gram giving twice as much energy as a gram of carbohydrate.
· Fat does not conduct heat well, therefore if it is stored under the skin it provides insulation for the body - why animals tend to increase their fat stores in winter.
· Fat provides protection for internal organs
· Fats carry vitamins A, D, E, K around the body.
· Unused fat will be stored under the skin!
These form a large part of cell membranes, including the myelin sheath around nerve fibres.
Is a raw material in the manufacture of Vitamin D. It is also of vital importance to cell membranes as it provides strength at high temperatures.
Lipids are digested and absorbed in the small intestine. Lipids over and above those provided in a normal equine diet are usually only required for horses in hard work eg: eventers. However, it is a good way to add weight to a thin horse where it is difficult to increase the amount of food given.
Forage and cereal grain contain very low amounts of lipids so, if extra is required, they will need to be added in the form of oil eg: vegetable oil, linseed oil or soybean oil. Some horse cubes and mixes have oil added to them. Grass does have plenty of omega-3 but once it becomes hay the omega-3 content has gone!
See my feeding blog for more about this and our horses food.
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