Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) are compounds that are called essential because they are not synthesized by the body and, therefore, must be obtained from dietary sources. EFA’s, Omega 3 Fatty Acids in particular, serve as components of nerve cells, cellular membranes, and the very important regulatory substances known as prostaglandins.

Prostaglandins are responsible for functions such as:

  • Regulating response to pain, inflammation
  • Synthesizing hormones
  • Dilating or constricting blood vessels
  • Maintaining the fluidity of cellular membranes
  • Transporting oxygen from red blood cells to tissues
  • Decreasing inflammation

Since EFA’s are heavily involved in a variety of essential and vital life functions, the benefits of feeding supplemental EFA’s include:

  • An increase in strength and stamina due to positive effects on the endocrine system producing the hormones and enzymes necessary for enhanced athletic performance.
  • Increased insulin sensitivity and efficiency, promoting the synthesis of muscle, and the ability of cell to utilize nutrients efficiently.
  • Increased neurological sensitivity and innervation of muscle fibers, contributing to strength and twitch responsiveness.
  • Improved ability to transport and utilize oxygen, hence improved stamina due to affinity of carbon chain of Omega-3 fatty acids for oxygen.
  • Increased elasticity of connective tissue and bone density.
  • Recovery time from exercise and injury may be shortened because of the factors listed above and due to the enhanced immune system. The immune system is suppressed by intense exercise and plays an important role in recuperation. A suppressed immune system leads to over training, injury, and poor performance.
  • Improved permeability of cellular membranes, allowing improved nutrient uptake and removal of toxic metabolites resulting from intense bouts of exercise.

In addition to the benefits listed above, EFA supplementation has also been shown to improve respiratory conditions and help accelerate the healing of quarter cracks and other skin and hoof disorders. One type of EFA, Omega 3 acids, may be extremely beneficial for horses that are bleeders or tend to have chronic inflammatory bowel syndrome as well.

If you decide additional supplementation of EFA’s may be beneficial to your horse, be sure to choose high quality sources. Flax seed oil, the best source for horses, should be unrefined and cold pressed. Refined oils are processed which eliminates many valuable nutrients.

This blog post was originally posted on Wednesday, January 4th, 2012 at Equine Nutrition and Health Services Blog. Blog article was re-posted with permission from blog owner, all rights reserved.