Prebiotics, indigestible fibers that stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the large intestine, are often added to horse feed, though little research has been done to determine if they are truly helpful to a horse's digestive system.
Dr. Annette Zeyner, head of the animal nutrition group at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg in Germany, and Dr. Gerhad Breves of the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover in Germany, spearheaded research into the effect of the Jerusalem artichoke meal, a common prebiotic in horse feed. The artichoke contains carbohydrates, fructo-oligosaccharides and inulin.
To study the effects of the prebiotic, the researchers fed six horses the Jerusalem artichoke in addition to their feed; another six horses received a placebo. After 21 days, the bacteria in the horse's digestive track was analyzed. They determined that the artichoke prebiotic had an impact on the microbial community in the entire gastrointestinal tract.
The diversity of bacteria in the entire digestive tract increased, which means the prebiotics were producing the desired protective effect. However, the prebiotics used in the study were breaking down before reaching the intestine. and being fermented in the stomach, which created organic acids that could damage the mucus membrane of the stomach.
The team suggested that in this type of delivery, prebiotics could be more harmful than beneficial and a better delivery is needed to help give them maximum impact in the intestine.
Read more at HorseTalk.
Read the study here.
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