The nutrient profile of any feedstuff is usually divided into the macro- and micro- nutrients; the former include protein, fibre and oil, whilst the latter include vitamins, minerals and trace elements. There is, however, another layer of nutrition, mainly associated with herbs and spices, but present in all plants, are the bioactives. They may include both macro- and micro-nutrients, for example omega fatty acids and Vitamin D – both of which have roles in supporting the immune system, but also a whole range of lesser known nutrients.
Primary amongst these are essential oils and phenols, but also bioactive peptides, functional fibre and several others. Fresh fruit and vegetable are always recommended for people as part of a healthy diet and it is due, in part, to these “hidden” nutrients. The same is true for the horse and the inclusion of fresh material is of benefit. However, it is not always practical to supply every feedstuff as a fresh material, so knowing that there is a background of bioactives in various feedstuffs can be useful. The pectins in beet pulp, for example, being a functional fibre has positive benefits on the gut barrier mechanism, whilst glucans from oat fibre can help with gut immunity. Even when processed, some bioactives remain, and this is the case of gentle heat treatment as in Cooked Micronised Linseed (CML).
In the case of CML, there are a number of different bioactives. As a macro-nutrient, functional fibre in the form of pectin helps support the production and structure of intestinal mucilages. These form a lipid/mucin layer that lines the gastro-intestinal tract and protects against pathogen adhesion, while allowing nutrients to pass through. Another macro-nutrient are oils that include the omega fatty acids. These have roles in the inflammatory cycle, the immune system and cardiovascular structure and function.
Within the micronutrients CML is rich in vitamin C & E. Although the headline E (α-tocopherol) is low CML has good levels of the rest of the E family (ϒ-tocopherol, tocotrienols). As well as powerful antioxidants, and so proactive in the inflammation cycle, the tocotrienols help optimise cell energy efficiency, whilst ϒ-tocopherol has particular affinity for skin and subcutaneous areas in its antioxidative role.
CLM also has a range of phenols, such as caffeic acid, ferulic acid and coumaric acid which have an additive effect with Vitamin C to act as antioxidants. It also contains flavonoids which have similar actions. Between them they help protect all cell membranes from oxidative damage, help the optimisation of both oxidative and antioxidative enzymes and their interaction with the inflammatory and immune systems. Also present are the phytosterols, which along with the lignans seicoisolaricresinol, support the vascular system. Along with the tocotrienols that help reduce plasma NO levels, maintaining normal vasodilatory function, CML bioactives have an important role in maintaining a sound cardiovascular system.
The bioactives found in CML are mainly antioxidative in nature. By mopping up free radicals, supporting antioxidative enzymes and supporting the vascular system they provide a significant aid to the health of the horse, above and beyond linseeds known benefits in terms of performance and condition.