Feed Supplements that claim to improve equine joint function remain a controversial subject but there is evidence to support their use in horses
Article by Dr David Platt BVSc, PhD, CVR, DEO, FRCVS
It has been shown in many scientific studies and is now well accepted that oral nutritional supplements (joint nutraceuticals) can improve joint function in horses.
Glucosamine or Chondroitin Sulphate are the two most well known supplements and the debate rages on as to whether Glucosamine or Chondroitin Sulphate in the most effective joint nutraceutical.
Glucosamine is one of the food supplements known to have beneficial effects on joint function.
Companies marketing products containing pure Glucosamine hydrochloride have suggested that Glucosamine molecules are small and are absorbed at very high levels from the horse intestine and therefore are the most effective joint nutraceuticals.
Recent scientific research has demonstrated, however, that only 2.5% of the Glucosamine in the feed is absorbed from the horses' intestine. It is also known that feeding regular amounts of such supplements does not result in an accumulation of Glucosamine in the tissues of the body.
Chondroitin sulphate has been recognised in many species as a potent joint nutraceutical for many years but there was scepticism that it could be absorbed from the horses' intestine due to its large molecular size.
Recently published evidence has confirmed that approximately 32% of Chondroitin sulphate that is given to horses in their feed is absorbed. Additionally it is now known that regular feeding of Chondroitin sulphate results in this important joint material accumulating in the body tissues.
Many research studies have demonstrated that Glucosamine and Chondroitin sulphate are complimentary and have better effects on joint function than either product alone.
What is not clear is in what form these molecules are absorbed into the body. Are these compounds broken down into smaller bio-active isolates that are absorbed and then circulate in the blood stream to the joints where they stimulate improved joint function?
If that is the case should we be feeding the smaller basic molecules (amino acids, amino sugars, Hyaluronic acid [HA] in addition to glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate since these raw materials are used by the joint tissues for everyday repair of mild damage to cartilage before it deteriorates towards arthritis.
The most effective joint supplements currently on the market have already addressed this important issue and are thought to be so effective because they provide all the basic requirements needed for optimal joint function.
The manufacturers of Cortaflex, for instance, have formulated a product that not only contains Chondroitin sulphate to stimulate the tissues in the joints but also provides the key nutrients (Glutamic acid, Glucuronic acid, Glycine, Proline, Glutamine and Hyaluronate) that are essential for joint cell function. By providing these essential key molecules Cortaflex acts both to stimulate the cells in the joints and provide the building blocks for joint tissue repair.
It is in this way that the manufacturers of Cortaflex have achieved a metabolic breakthrough which is forming the basis of the next generation of joint nutraceuticals.