The truth about fats
The truth about fats
Fats/oils, and this is a bit of a subject. We’ve been taught to think of fat/oil in the feedbowl as a creator of body fat, but nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, good fats/oils are super healthy, yet most of us label all fats/oils as bad. The truth is that all fats are not created equal - just like the many different feedbags out there, there are good fats, questionable fats and downright bad fats, aka FrankenFats, typically what you see on the supermarket shelves, man-made, and highly processed.
Vets and doctors are usually confused about fat, clinging to myths and misinformation that prevents them from understanding the latest science to achieve optimal health, as well as not recognising the ability to actually lose weight with fat in the diet under a controlled eating plan.
So, let’s remind ourselves of the myths that we’re no doubt familiar with:
· Fat makes us fat.
· Fat causes heart disease.
· Fat raises cholesterol.
· One of the most common - fat leads to obesity.
· And finally, the infamous myth, that saturated fat is bad.
Simply put, these and other fat myths are completely wrong, but thankfully the importance of fat is finally starting to catch on. Eating healthy fat speeds up metabolism, releases fat from fat cells and cuts hunger, while eating carbs does the exact opposite. It’s carbs and sugar that store fat in the body and slows metabolism, while creating cravings and hunger for even more carbs.
Here are just some of the benefits of healthy fat:
· Fats help the body feel full and satiated.
· Fats regulate inflammation and metabolism.
· Fats are needed for healthy cell membranes and to make immune cells.
· Fats are needed to make hormones.
· And, fats are needed because would you believe that over 50% of the brain is fat, which is a whole other subject in itself.
We all know that fat is needed for turmeric digestion, because being fat-soluble means it can’t be digested and absorbed unless fat is present. But perhaps even more importantly for our horses, fat and grass are the perfect pairing, because many of the important nutrients in grass – Vits A, D, E, and K - are also fat-soluble. Without fat in the feedbowl, these fat-soluble vitamins in grass won’t be well absorbed.
Fat is one of the body’s most basic building blocks. The average human is made up of between 15 and 30 percent fat, yet for decades, we’ve diligently followed low-fat diets that almost always equate to highly refined carb diets which simply don’t work. This contributes to insulin resistance, obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and many other health issues. The real truth is that if there's quality, healthful fat in the diet, the better the body will function.
So what’s the difference between all these fats?
Astonishingly, there are hundreds of thousands of studies, as in over 600,000, on fats and their effects on health. Interesting when you consider we’ve been led to believe that all fats are bad ... To understand how fats affect health, we need to understand that there are fats that heal and fats that don’t. Simples.
The myth that all fats are bad comes from one type of fat, and that’s trans fat, aka hydrogenated fat, and it’s important to know that these aren’t natural fats. Trans fats are adulterated fats in that they’ve had hydrogen molecules injected into the fat-making process to make a non-saturated fat a saturated fat. You’ll no doubt be relieved to know that trans fats/hydrogenated fats are no longer permitted in food production, although there are still some sneaky manufacturers that loophole through the regulations and include it, but that’s another story.
Anyway, trans fat or not, the whole fat subject can be almighty confusing, so let’s try to clear up the fat myths and mystery, and explain the difference between saturated fat versus unsaturated fat. Importantly, we’ll also immediately dispel the myth that saturated fat is a bad fat and about to clog arteries.
Put scientifically (here's a tiny Science Alert), a saturated fat has multiple (natural) hydrogen bonds, meaning that there’re so many hydrogen bonds that the fat is literally ‘saturated’. This is why butter is solid at room temperature, and coconut oil is solid above 72-deg F.
This means a saturated fat is stable, which is good; the more structure it has – the more structure anything has - the more stable it is. What it doesn’t mean is that it’s going to clog arteries – it has nothing to do with this. The word saturated is simply about the stability of the fat.
Now to monounsaturated fat, i.e. avocado oil. The mono means it has one bond that isn’t bonded to hydrogen, so it’s almost saturated. It’s still a very stable fat but not quite as stable as a saturated fat.
Now to polyunsaturated, aka PUFAs, i.e. vegetable oils, the type you see in the supermarket, and this includes olive oil*. These fats have many bonds that aren’t occupied by hydrogen so what happens is that they can be occupied by oxygen and become oxidised, i.e. toxic.
Now for the non-scientific way to look at it, yay! Picture a large dining table, totally, er, ‘saturated’ with everyone sitting down at the table for dinner, all the seats occupied with no open seats available. Meaning the Oxygen Boogie-Man can’t take a seat and turn everyone bad.
But what if there’s one seat free at the table? There’s a very small chance, but still a chance, that a bad oxygen molecule will take a seat. This is your mono-unsaturated fat.
However, if there are multiple seats available, it’s like Open Day for the multiple bad oxygen molecules to come in and turn the whole table bad into unstable PUFAs. TaDah!
Pulling this together
A saturated fat is the most stable, the most secure, the least likely to go rancid, fat. There’s a tiny chance that mono-unsaturated may become rancid although not that big a chance, but the polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) are very unstable, or as some like to call them, ‘fragile’.
* A quick note on olive oil. It’s the highest quality PUFA but because of its fragility we really shouldn’t cook with it. Although it’s a healthy oil, its PUFA status makes it unstable to cook with because, as it’s heated its fragility breaks apart so it becomes rancid and unhealthy. It should only be added to food at room temperature or slightly warm. The only fats we should use for cooking are butter or coconut oil.
Here’s the thing with PUFAs; they’re unstable/fragile, yet we think they’re durable enough to sling into the frying pan. So much damage is done to these oils when they’re processed for shelf life; they’re one of our most sensitive nutrients and need the most care when being handled, yet they’re highly processed with harsh chemicals used to 'wash' the oil, so they become very damaged. So many health problems come from these damaged, inflammatory oils which is a tragedy as they begin their life as a natural plant product. If they were manufactured with health in mind, it could be a very different story.
Healthy fats for our horses
Let’s talk EFA’s – Essential Fatty Acids, aka the omegas, which are the building blocks of fats. Mini-Science-Alert again - dietary fats are made up of 3 (tri) fatty acids (omegas 3, 6 and 9 EFA’s) attached to a glycerol backbone, hence the term ‘tri-glyceride’ – you’ve probably heard of short-chain triglyceride, medium-chain triglyceride and long-chain-triglyceride.
In horse-world there are two classes of EFA’s, omega-3 and omega-6, which need to be in the diet for optimal immune function. Omega-3 contributes to normal homeostatic balancing of inflammation, as well as vision, the nervous system and cellular membrane integrity. However, as with minerals, omega-3 and omega-6 must be in the correct ratios to each other of 2:1, otherwise a higher ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 creates an inflammatory state.
This means that good fats/oils will be high in omega-3’s, i.e. coconut, linseed and some olive oils, but beware the cheaper olive oils as they’re blended from many oils of lower quality. For a reasonably priced, safe olive oil, Tesco’s do their own organic brand, 500ml for around £3.50 (as at summer 2018).
Bad fats/oils are the other way round, higher in omega-6 than omega-3 which means they’re inflammatory. Generally, it’s best to avoid any oil where you see ‘polyunsaturated’ on the label, or to make it easy, simply avoid the supermarket oils such as corn, sunflower, canola, or worse, when it just says ‘vegetable’ oil.
My fats/oils of choice
I think everyone knows I'm a fan of Copra and Linseed (the micronised linseed itself, not the plain oil). Copra is rich in natural coconut oil, which is a highly beneficial MCT (medium chain triglyceride), so a superior healthful fat. Stance Equine’s Coolstance Copra provides coconut oil in its natural form as an equine feed, alongside a good source of fibre and nutrients.
Linseed is best known for its high omega-3 fatty-acid content, with the low-heat micronisation process preserving this valuable EFA. Linseed comes in at around 30%+ fat, with the same high omega-3 profile as fresh grass.
For more info on my feed preferences, see the Feeding Our Horses chapter in the Content section, and specifically the page What I Like To Feed.
Yah Boo Snoots
A great blog from Anna Blake this week - I particularly like this bit:
"Horses have no problem at all with grazing. They were born to do it all day long. Their digestive system requires it. Humans have a problem with grazing because it offends our ego that a horse might prefer grass to pandering to our every desire in the saddle.
Start here: an average horse creates two liters of stomach acid during an hour. Hydrochloric acid, and without going into a long lecture about ulcers, he’s right about needing to graze. I require clients to feed hay while tacking up. He needs something in his stomach ahead of the ride. It’s a preparation, just as important as cleaning hooves and saddling correctly."
So yah-boo to those snoots I've ridden out with in the past who gave me the BHS face whenever Murf decided to stop for a nibble on something. Especially cow parsley (his alltime favourite), oh and blackberries were I'd pick them from the saddle and then lean down to share with him - who needs carrot stretches ... 😉
The Big Fat Lie
How did this whole idea that ‘all fat is bad’ originally start? The idea that saturated fat and cholesterol are bad for health? How did we get to the point where two thirds of our society is overweight or obese?
We need to go back to the late 1950s, when the western world was in a panic over the rising tide of heart disease over the last decade, that had pretty much come out of nowhere. In the early 1900s heart disease was rare, yet by the ‘50s it had become the western world’s number one killer.
The players are a pathologist at the University of Minnesota named Ancel Benjamin Keys, who had a theory, one hell of an ego, was career-driven, and friends in the right places. We also have President Eisenhower who triggered the whole myth unintentionally, and his personal physician, Paul Dudley White.
In 1955, which he was on the golf course on the 9th hole, President Eisenhower had a heart attack. He was out of the Oval Office for ten days, which was unheard of – imagine, a President being out of action for ten days, and all the more so at a time when nobody really knew back then what caused heart disease. Peoples' fathers hadn’t died of heart disease; it was a new killer of unknown origin, all of a sudden killing men in their prime.
Before this, cardiologists had been known to practice for decades, some even their entire careers, without ever running into a heart attack case, but now there was a new phenomena. The rate of heart attacks had dramatically increased in the past decade or so, and Eisenhower's heart attack was a pivotal moment in the history of medicine. He was a much-loved President, so in the midst of this terrifying moment in American history, the word ‘heart attack’ became something that people were hearing for the first time, and were immediately terrified of it.
When the discomfort started, President Eisenhower initially thought it was indigestion because he’d just had a giant greasy hamburger for lunch, which he did often, and frequently experienced heartburn soon after. He thought the pain would pass, but it didn't, so his personal physician, Paul Dudley White, examined him, concerned that this was actually a heart attack, but very much out of his depth because there was a very poor understanding of what a heart attack even was. The news broke, and the stock market plummeted six percent, $14 billion in a day.
His treatment involved strict bed rest, and he was told to stop eating butter and switch to margarine, to give up red meat and to eat dry crackers and bread. This didn’t spare him as not long afterwards he had another heart attack which killed him. He was also a four pack a day smoker.
Into this vacuum came a professor named Ancel Benjamin Keys, who had an idea that Eisenhower’s heart attack was due to saturated fat causing raised cholesterol, which would ‘clog your arteries like hot grease down a cold pipe’ and give you a heart attack and die. This idea became known as the ‘diet-heart hypothesis’.
What Eisenhower’s heart attack did was enable a career-driven man with an agenda to create this mythology around fat. Ancel Keys was able to secure funding for a major study and had already been building a reputation for himself as somewhat of an expert in this area. His idea was starting to establish itself that the cause of heart attacks was related to dietary indulgences, particularly saturated fat.
With all this attention, Ancel Keys’ ego was growing. He became known for an aggressive, domineering personality and he was able to convince people of anything, exhausting every objection thrown at him. As a result, he was able to get his ‘diet-heart hypothesis’ implanted into the American Heart Association. He got in to their nutrition committee, and in 1961 issued the first advice worldwide: "Avoid saturated fat and cholesterol in order to prevent heart disease." This was the tiny acorn that grew into the giant oak tree of advice that we now have all over the world.
Now re-enter Paul Dudley White, Eisenhower’s former GP. Ancel Keys ultimately compelled him to his way of thinking due to a study he’d done on the causes of heart-attacks. Thing is, there were many flaws in the study.
The "Seven Countries Study" was an epidemiological study (the study and analysis of the distribution (who, when, and where) and determinants of health and disease conditions in defined populations), which meant it only showed association and not causation, so straight away there was a fundamental flaw, but it was the only study that people had at the time - there were no counter studies to show anything else. So, this was the study that prevailed, and what it appeared to find was that the people who ate diets higher in saturated fat were more likely to raise their cholesterol and die of a heart attack.
It’s now well known that Ancel Keys clearly cherry-picked the countries that he visited; he knew that if he went to the southern parts of Spain, Italy, Yugoslavia, they didn't eat a lot of saturated fats and lived long lives.
He also knew to avoid countries like Northern Italy, Switzerland, France and Germany, where they ate a lot of butter and red meat yet they lived just as long, with equal rates of heart disease post World War II. Ancel Keys knew that the stats from these countries would contradict his hypothesis.
The ‘Seven Countries Study’ became one of the most famous cardiology studies of all time, being cited tens of thousands of times by articles later. And it’s this that convinces Paul Dudley White, who also happens to be one of the founding members of the AHA. And when the AHA went from a small, underfunded professional organization to a much bigger powerhouse, it was Paul Dudley White's doing because he was a great fundraiser; he brokered a connection between Proctor & Gamble that gave the AHA a $1.7 million endowment.
This set the stage for the AHA to become the powerhouse that it is today. And in doing so, it paved the way for Proctor & Gamble to manufacture foods made with vegetable oil instead of natural, unsaturated fat; in other words, the beginnings of a potentially biased connection between big food industry and medicine.
Now here’s another thing - Ancel Keys originally made a name for himself originally in the military. He created what was known as the K-ration (the K standing for Keys), which was a processed foodstuff which fed soldiers during World War II. It was the first completely ready-meal, as in rip and eat, no cooking required.
Jump forward again to the early 1960’s and the AHA’s connection to Proctor & Gamble, and Keys is now opening the door for processed food manufacturers to sell us whatever they wanted as long as it was low in saturated fat.
It’s 1961 and by now, everyone’s blaming fat and cholesterol. Ancel Keys appears on the cover of Time Magazine in the same year that the AHA, the only health organization out there counselling people on how to avoid heart disease, takes this message worldwide –
“In order to avoid a heart attack, you need to avoid saturated fat and cholesterol. Eat less meat, less cheese, fewer eggs, more grains, more cereals, fruits and vegetables, and vegetable oils.”
The dark side
It’s generally thought that Ancel Keys genuinely believed fat was bad for health, but he didn’t behave like a scientist, who are supposed to question and doubt their beliefs and try to prove themselves wrong, trying every angle to find the truth, not necessarily the promotion of your own ideas. However, he would disregard or actually bully and squash anybody who challenged his ideas.
He didn't just collect data on saturated fat, he also collected data on smoking. The countries that had the most heart disease on his Seven Countries study also had the highest rates of smoking, and he saw this over and over again.
But that's not what he published. That's not what he talked about. He talked about saturated fat. In his interview with Time Magazine, where Time Magazine talked about the other factors being blood pressure, hypertension and smoking, Keys said, "Those don't play very much of a role. It's cholesterol. It's the saturated fat driving up cholesterol." Despite the fact that he had the data proving otherwise.
The Seven Country Study data was in by 1958. Time Magazine interviewed him in 1961. Yet he lied, knowing it was going to be good for Proctor & Gamble. The real cause of heart attack death in Ancel Keys' time was cigarette smoking; it wasn't diet at all because at that point in time, there wasn't that much vegetable oil. The die was cast for Americans to be lied to by the AHA and by their doctors for the next half century.
As Keys' ‘diet-heart hypothesis’ grew in popularity and was adopted by the established western countries’ authorities, it became more difficult for scientists to speak out. One prominent lipidologist named Ed Pete Ahrens, Rockefeller University, was an outspoken critic of Ancel Keys. Increasingly he would be disinvited from expert panels, had trouble getting his papers published, and he was known to tell his colleagues that his career suffered greatly for opposing Ancel Keys.
Another scientist, George Mann, University of Vanderbilt, said in an interview that he used to call Ancel Keys and the tight group around him, who controlled all of expert panels and medical journals, the "diet mafia". He also claims that Keys ruined his career. He’d been an extremely prominent biochemist, and had run many studies for the National Institutes of Health. He claims that he was told that if he continued to oppose Ancel Keys, it would cost him his research grant. Sure enough, he lost it.
Scientists who spoke out were clearly punished. If the NIS stopped your research grants, it took the life blood away from the progression of science. As the next generation of scientists came along, they’d seen what had happened to the generation before them, and so they self-censored. This practice continued throughout the 1980s, 90s and early 2000s.
It really didn't start up again until 2010 when Gary Taubes had an article on the cover of the New York Times Magazine saying, “What if it's all been a big mistake? Maybe it's carbohydrates instead that are really the dietary villains.”
And so this idea disseminated out through the expert community and professors started researching this idea. By now, with growing rates of obesity, governments and major institutions knew they needed new science. As a result, several ambitious, randomised control clinical trials were carried out to see if they could prove Ancel Keys right. Ultimately, over 65,000 people were tested on his hypothesis: does saturated fat and cholesterol cause heart disease? And here’s what’s astonishing - in none of those experiments could they show that to be true. None of the results supported his hypothesis.
As far as the medical profession is concerned, the only way to lower cholesterol levels is through pharmaceuticals called statins. Which means that the processed food manufacturers have benefitted because they don’t use saturated fat, i.e. butter and eggs and actual food. The pharmaceutical companies have benefitted because the only way to get somebody's cholesterol levels into the alleged healthy zone is with drugs.
Ancel Keys set off an atom bomb in health and it changed the course of history. Back in his day, Type 2 Diabetes was unheard of. These days, the rates of obesity or unhealthy diets have so dramatically accelerated that now children aged 2 are being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, with strokes and heart attacks at age 3 and 4.
Since the early 2000s there have been a huge volume of studies now looking at carbs as the cause, which has led to a large and fast growing volume of literature that makes the case that Gary Taubes was right; that we need to reduce carbohydrates in order to be healthy.
They say that things come in 3's, and sure enough, this weekend I've had three requests to explain why I feed Copra. So, here's why.
The reason why I changed to Copra as my feed of choice was twofold; firstly, the feed I had my horses on at the time, which was allegedly the best on the market as recommended to me by many, wasn’t addressing the specific areas that my horses needed. My Connemara, Murphy, is IR/EMS with a very sensitive gut, which has a direct, detrimental effect on his hooves. Also, our now Cushingoid pet pony, Cookie, blows up like a balloon at the first sign of spring. Both are permanently on lami-watch, all year round.
Despite following this particular feed regime alongside a rigidly imposed barefoot track system, Murf stayed gut-sensitive and footy, and Cookie continued to pork.
The trigger to change was one hot summer’s day around 4 years ago, when an equine professional accused me bluntly that I was ‘killing’ our pony. This person was renowned for being a little direct at the best of times, but the arrogance with which she hurled her one-liner absolutely floored me, and all the more so as I’d been following her advice to the letter. She wasn’t invited near my horses again.
Meanwhile, as we were all becoming more aware of forage mineral balancing, and while trying to do right by my horses from the feed angle, the feed company in question wouldn’t divulge the mineral analysis in their feed. When I asked the question politely, my emails went unanswered. Any other question, I got an instant reply. I wasn’t alone – several people were posting on the forums that they were unable to get any meaningful information from this company other than a general statement that their feed provided “all a horse needs”.
Hmmm. As was/is the barefoot owner’s way, we spend most of our waking life educating ourselves on all things feed and barefoot management, so this somewhat patronising statement didn’t quite cut it with me. Despite feeding this wonder solution that claimed to give my horses ‘all they needed’, they stayed gutty, and footy.
Meanwhile, the word Copra had starting inching its way onto the forums, so I decided to take a look. After doing a bit of research and instinctively liking what I read, I contacted Coolstance directly and exchanged many informative emails with Dr Tim Kempton, Ph.D. Nutritional Biochemistry, and founder of Stance Equine, who was only too happy to provide me with a wealth of information, including published research results.
Being an experienced horseman himself, and during his career as a research scientist, Tim had seen enough metabolic chaos in horses to want to try and resolve the nutritional implications of modern feeds, which he was fast coming to the conclusion that they were completely inappropriate. He researched the effects of high starch diets on horse behaviour and performance, and evaluated many feeds including rice bran and coconut meal, which resulted in him establishing Stance Equine over 20 years ago.
Meanwhile, having taken myself and EquiNatural along the organic path, I also wanted to feed as near to organic as I could find, and Copra ticked this box for me too. Unlike many processed feeds made from either inferior and/or synthetic ingredients, Copra is a single, natural ingredient, made from the dried meat of the coconut, and laid out in the sun to dry. Even better, it’s GMO-free and as close to organic as you can get, with no added fertilisers or chemicals during processing, so it’s a clean feed, and that’s just for starters. The energy cost of harvesting and processing is minimal as it’s made virtually by hand by local farming family communities in the Philippines, so the industry also supports generations of third world farmers.
For me, I like CoolStance Copra for several reasons; first off, because of the low digestible NSC - it’s less than 11% starch so a ‘cool’ feed, with no carbohydrate overload into the hindgut, so low risk of acidosis. It’s also high in digestible fibre and has a natural electrolyte content. However, the magic, for me, is the coconut oil.
Now here’s a thing, and a quick digress. There are various Laminitis & Cushings groups who don’t support the concept of feeding oil, with some being particularly outspoken about Copra, saying it’s a high-oil feed, and completely ignoring the biochemistry. Yet Copra contains only 8-10% oil, so if you feed, say, 1kg/day, then the total oil intake is 80-100g/day, or just 2.5% of the total feed intake, which actually makes it a low oil feed.
It’s an even lower oil feed if you use it simply as a carrier, as I do, for added minerals or supplements. I personally feed around 150-200g per day, which makes the oil content virtually negligible. Interestingly, one of these particular groups actively promotes feeding linseed, and with the recommended linseed measure being between in excess of 200g daily, I’ll leave you to make your own interpretation as to the validity of their anti-oil campaign.
So, some facts about coconut oil, and why it’s actually good for our horses. What makes coconut oil different than other oils is that it’s rich in MCT’s (medium-chain triglycerides) – these are ‘good’ (saturated) fats, not ‘fat’ calories (long-chain triglycerides, or polyunsaturated fats), which not only sit as fat deposits in the body but are also known to cause inflammation. MCT’s have a different chemical structure which allows the body to digest them easily, where they’re then absorbed straight into the blood portal system, providing readily digestible energy. It’s also antimicrobial so overall extremely useful for a struggling digestive system and sensitive-gut horses.
Just for the record, all pasture contains oil, (between 2 to >5%), which means that all horses eat oil naturally. In research trials, the grazed pasture contained 5% oil, and alongside being fed Copra, the horses consumed approx 560g oil/day, or 5.6% oil. This is hardly a high oil intake, and not a 10% oil feed as some of these groups would suggest. Furthermore, after more than 20 years of Copra being fed to horses, there are no substantiated reports of ill-effects, and not one verifiable negative result.
It is now well accepted that inappropriate feeding is the trigger to obesity and many equine metabolic conditions, including gastrointestinal ulcers, IR, colic, lameness, laminitis, EMS and Cushing’s disease. Without doubt, high NSC diets play a major role. Whether we like it or not, NSC is present in all feeds, including grass/hay, but especially in commercial feeds, which tend to be based on cereals and cereal by-products, which can contain NSC levels as high as 70%.
The main problem today is that our domestic horses are mainly underworked and overfed. At the end of the day, horses don’t read nutrition books or forums, so they can only show us how it really is, and it’s up to us to observe, interpret, and try to get it right for them. For me, with Copra, I know exactly what’s going in them and how it’s been processed, and I’m now confident that they’re now getting exactly what they need.
When you’ve continued to witness your horses struggle, despite professional advice and your best efforts over the years, you just can’t put a price on that kind of peace of mind.
I've just been reading an article on why Nutella is unhealthy for us humans.
Because I study just about everything I can find online that's food and nutrition-related, and on the grounds that hubby and daughter get through jars of this stuff on a weekly basis, literally spooning it out of the jar and eating it neat, accompanied by a drooling, glazed expression, the heading ‘Why We Should Never Eat Nutella’ leapt out at me.
I just don’t have a sweet tooth – thankfully! I tried a smidge a few weeks back while they were both dribbling with ecstacy at the chocolate goop, and have to confess that, yes, it was yummy, but that was it – I’ve not succumbed since. So you can imagine my smugness - Ha! One smug email on its way to hubby!
Not so fast though. As I was reading through the article, I came across one of the ingredients, Soy Lecithin. Hang on, I thought . . . isn't that an ingredient in packaged horse-feed? So I read on.
I’m sure everyone knows my views on packaged, processed horse feed. Nuff said.
So thanks to my family’s addiction to Nutella, we now have evidence on yet another yukky ingredient in processed horse feed that you might want to know about. A little bit of online searching later, and here’s what I found to make us think it’s indispensable for our horses, courtesy of Kentucky Performance Products, https://kppusa.com/tips-and-topics/lesson-lecithin :
“Have you ever come across “lecithin” while scrutinizing the ingredient list of a favorite supplement? Have you wondered why lecithin was included in the mix? Because it benefits the horse on both the inside and outside, lecithin is anything but an “empty” ingredient.
Lecithin is a combination of phospholipids that occur naturally in some plants. Made of many components including fatty acids, phospholipids are involved in a host of physiological processes. While fatty acids work doggedly on the cellular level, horsemen often see the results of their effort on the exterior in the form of healthy, pliable skin and a slick, shiny coat.
Lecithin is rich source of choline, a vital part of every cell membrane in the body. Without choline, cell membranes would harden, prohibiting the passage of life-sustaining nutrients in and out of the cell. Researchers believe that lecithin and choline provide multiple health benefits: improved cardiovascular health, heightened liver function, optimal reproductive efficiency and fetal development, and enhanced athletic performance.”
Sounds amazing, doesn't it. And here’s how they describe the alleged safe, clean way that lecithin is ‘created’ :
“Most lecithin is created during the manufacture of soybean oil. Once soybeans are cleaned, cracked, and separated from their hulls, they are heated and pressed into flakes. The flakes then undergo a distillation process in which soybean oil is extracted from them. Further processing of the oil yields lecithin. Though soybean oil provides the majority of lecithin in use, lecithin is also extracted from alternate sources such as sunflower oil.”
Further Processing? Aha . . . Now here’s the real deal : “Soybean lecithin comes from sludge left after crude soy oil goes through a "degumming" process. It is a waste product containing solvents and pesticides and has a consistency ranging from a gummy fluid to a plastic solid. Before being bleached to a more appealing light yellow, the colour of lecithin ranges from a dirty tan to reddish brown.
The majority of soy sources in the world are now genetically modified (GM). Researchers have clearly identified GM foods as a threat to the environment, pollution of soils and a long-term threat to human health with links to of the world with unnatural genetic material that may have unknown long-term consequences with links to decreased fertility, immunological alterations in the gut and the exacerbation and creation of allergies.
Genetically engineered soy contains high concentrations of plant toxicants. The presence of high levels of toxicants in the GM soy represent thousands of plant biochemicals, many of which have been shown to have toxic effects.”
I won’t bore you with more details as we’re all able to make up our own minds. Mind not be a bad idea to check feedbag ingredients though . . .
For more info on what a horrible ingredient this is, here’s the link: http://preventdisease.com/news/09/073009_soy_lecithin.shtml
Apple Cider Vinegar
This morning hubby and me were planning supper tonight and how he'd like mint sauce with it, so I said I'd make some as I've always got organic mint on the shelf plus apple cider vinegar, and did he want it wet or mint-thick, and he said plenty of vinegar as he loves vinegar, as in drinking it neat from the bottle.
Wow - apart from this being something I didn't know about the husband (!), I was also pretty impressed as I'm definitely not quite brave enough to neck it neat from the bottle. But - I do love a vinaigrette dressing which I make pretty much every day, always with a good slosh of apple cider vinegar in, so that, to me, is how I get my own personal slug of the fabulous health benefits that apple cider vinegar provides.
With that, I then rambled on with gusto to him as to how vinegar is so flipping healthy for us - well, the pure, unrefined, proper stuff, that is. As his eyes started glazing over, that was my cue to stop (rambling on and on and on), and finally put a blog post together, which I've been meaning to do for ages, on the wonder tonic, for both human and horse, that is Apple Cider Vinegar.
Vinegar is a traditional folk remedy long valued for its many health benefits, yet real vinegar practically vanished into oblivion when modern man and progress mass-produced and refined it, and subjected it to pasteurization and distillation processes.
However, the age of Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) as a health tonic is truly back. After all, it was the grand-daddy of medicine himself, Hippocrates, who endorsed ACV as a healing elixir and cleansing agent in 400 BC, using it as both an antibiotic and antiseptic to treat his patients.
ACV is often looked upon by natural wellness enthusiasts as a cure-all for many things - taking a tablespoon or so of it every day is said to cure everything from gout to allergies and more – personally it’s the only culinary vinegar that features in my home. Even according to mainstream medical website WebMd.com, there are several serious conditions which apple cider vinegar can help with, which include high cholesterol, obesity, cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Apart from being super-rich in many beneficial vitamins and minerals (i.e. calcium, copper, fluorine, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, silicon and sulfur), ACV also contains natural probiotics, beneficial enzymes and acids. It's also considered best that your ACV is organic and have what’s known as ‘the mother’ in it, to be of most benefit to you - the ‘mother’ is the stringy-looking cloudy stuff that floats around the vinegar and is the nutritious source of its sour, fermented taste.
Overall, there are huge health benefits from taking ACV, and although many of them stem from folklore, there’s also plenty of scientific evidence to back them up. It can help regulate blood sugar, aid digestion, build muscle, clear up skin quality, reduce bad cholesterol, prevent sickness with its antiviral properties, help remove toxins and assist in weight loss. It's also an alkalizing food, so it helps the body maintain good PH levels. Not bad for something as simple as what we pour over our chips!
Certainly for our horses, it’s a super-beneficial addition to the feedbowl – here’re just some of the best reasons to add a slosh :
- Improves gastric health - rich in natural probiotics, beneficial enzymes and acids that improve digestive health, ACV encourages proper digestion of food and absorption of nutrients. When foods are digested thoroughly and waste eliminated quickly, the body is nourished and toxins are removed before they have time to do damage. The natural pectins from the apples in the vinegar are also said to ease stomach cramps.
- Helps drain the sinuses – if your horse has respiratory issues (SPAOD or COPD), the vinegar helps drain the sinuses and clear congestion.
- Helps to energize - the amino acids it contains counteract the buildup of lactic acid after intense exercise. It's also full of electrolytes to help rebalance the body’s hydration.
- A beneficial immunity enhancer - rich in natural minerals, vitamins and enzymes ,the cleansing properties of ACV have been utilized for centuries, with Eastern medicine believing that ACV helps stimulate circulation and aid detoxification in the liver. The unique acids in ACV bind to toxins and help the body eliminate them more effectively. Ancient cultures also used ACV to purify the blood.
- Beneficial for cleansing the lymphatic system - another way ACV aids detoxification is by breaking up mucus throughout the body and cleansing the lymph nodes to allow for better lymph circulation.
- ACV can also help relieve joint pain - with mineral deficiency known to worsen joint pain, a diet rich in essential minerals is an important step to relieving the pain of arthritis. The potassium in cider vinegar may be especially beneficial because it works to prevent calcium build-up in the joints, which is linked to joint stiffness.
- Experts suggest that joint pain and arthritis may be linked to toxins accumulating in the joints, since metabolic waste is often stored in connective tissues. Equally, joint pain tends to reduce movement, and this may cause toxins to build-up even more. The pectin in ACV helps absorb toxins and move them out of the system, while the acids work to purify and detoxify the entire body.
- Can help with laminitis prevention - in a 2004 human study in ‘Diabetes Care’, insulin-resistant individuals who drank vinegar and water followed by a meal enjoyed significantly improved insulin sensitivity compared to a control group. Given the connection between insulin levels and fat storage, these results supported vinegar's use as a fat burning food.
By promoting stable blood sugar, vinegar has been shown to help prevent the sugar crashes that encourage binge carb eating, shooting blood sugar levels back up and starting the cycle all over again. In a 2005 study of Vinegar and Satiety, scientists evaluated blood samples to determine vinegar's impact on glucose and insulin levels. The low and intermediate vinegar groups had significantly lower blood glucose levels.
A 2006 review article in the ‘Medscape Journal of Medicine’ concluded vinegar may have a role in blood sugar control and appetite suppression. Other studies show vinegar may also promote weight loss by preventing fat accumulation through its impact on insulin secretion. Furthermore, a 2007 study reported in ‘Diabetes Care’ followed 11 people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes where ACV showed an apparent ability to stabilize glucose.
And for us humans? If like me you’re not brave enough to swig a spoonful neat, here are a few ways to get it into your diet in a more palatable way:
- Add a spoonful of honey to 1-2 tablespoons ACV diluted in a glass of water.
- Use ACV in place of other vinegars in your salad dressing (this is what I do).
- If you make a morning smoothie, add 1-2 tablespoons ACV to it. Start with 1-tbsp and work your way up.
- Use as a facial toner to improve complexion and restore skin’s natural pH.
- Use as a hair rise to naturally treat dandruff.
- It can also ease sunburn. Sunburn can be soothed and treated by including a good slosh of ACV in bath water.
- Soak beans, pulses, grains and brown rice with a slosh of ACV added to the soaking water – this helps reduce the phytic acid content (which basically blocks mineral and nutrient uptake) and makes them more easily digestible.
- Add a good slosh to bath water with epsom salts and lavender essential oil for a detox bath.
- Spray on pets to reduce fleas.
Turmeric has been hitting the headlines recently – and then some.
Amongst other headings . . .
- Turmeric Produces 'Remarkable' Recovery in Alzheimer's Patients – with these remarkable recoveries reported after administration of turmeric.
- Science Confirms Turmeric As Effective As 14 Drugs – with those drugs named as everything from Aspirin, Prozac, cancer-treating chemotherapy drugs, and . . . would you believe our old friends Metformin and Phenylbutazone!
- Turmeric and myrhh protect against lead toxicity – studies showed glutathione activity significantly increased when fed turmeric following lead poisoning. The researchers also noted that levels of free radical damage in damaged liver cells and bone marrow were significantly improved by powdered turmeric and powdered myrrh powder. See our blog on the fabulousness of glutathione here.
- Turmeric Extract Found Superior To Blockbuster Drug for Rheumatoid Arthritis – researchers found that in three treatment groups of patients, the curcumin-only group showed the highest percentage of improvement, also noting that, "more importantly, curcumin treatment was found to be safe and did not relate with any adverse events’.
- Osteoarthritis: Turmeric Spice Might Provide Natural Remedy – scientists showed curcumin exerts beneficial effects on cartilage metabolism.
- Turmeric's Cardiovascular Benefits Found To Be As Powerful As Exercise – not only does turmeric extract reduce post-bypass heart attack risk by 56%, but it’s now been revealed as being as effective in improving vascular function in postmenopausal women as a moderate aerobic exercise training regimen. How cool is that! (Especially as I'm personally heading for the 'post' meno stage :-)
Even . . .
- Clean Your Teeth with Turmeric! – Seriously! Its antiviral properties are brushing our molars with apparent great oral-health success!
You could be forgiven for thinking that this humble yellow root’s medicinal properties (via its active ingredient, curcumin) are too good to be true, but the evidence is showing that everything we’re hearing is to be believed. Fast becoming one the most thoroughly researched plants in existence today, turmeric is proving to be flipping amazing, and not just for us 2-leggers – our 4-leggers can really benefit from it too.
For me personally, it’s all about curcumin’s benefits for equine joint health. Apart from the fact that it’s a natural product, which is the best news in my book, studies show that its potent anti-inflammatory properties may be as effective as over-the-counter drugs, but without the side effects. You just have to read some of the success stories that horse owners have shared on their success via the Turmeric User Group (TUG) on Facebook – link details below.
And speaking of TUG, I recently read there that turmeric is proving successful for reducing sarcoids as well. More on that on the group page.
As with all things, however, it’s all about my favourite B-word again – Balance - and there are some pointers associated with this wonder-spice that we need to be aware of.
- Drug Interaction – turmeric can interact with some conventional over-the-counter and prescribed meds; for example, turmeric can reduce the effectiveness of some drugs that help to reduce stomach acid, such as Omeprazole.
- Diabetes – while turmeric naturally lowers blood sugar levels, taking too much keeps those levels lowering – too high a dose can cause blood sugar levels to plummet, which can be really dangerous.
- Ulcers - taking more than a recommended dose of turmeric can cause mild to severe stomach problems and – it’s reported - even ulcers.
The article on turmeric for oral health grabbed my attention as I’m very interested in natural methods, from using coconut oil for oil-pulling, to making my own remineralising powder. As a result, off I went all keen and eager to try turmeric on the toothbrush.
Have to say, yeeakkkk. For starters, my entire set of pearly whites went fag-ash yellow, despite everything I read promising they wouldn’t. And omigod the taste – don’t get me wrong – I really enjoy turmeric as part of my garam-masala curry blend, but on its own a-plenty? Bleurrrghhh . . . I’m afraid it didn’t work for me, but to all you brave soldiers who can handle it, fair play to you :-)
For a ton of information on turmeric, take a look at the Turmeric User Group on Facebook – you’ll find friendly advice and recommendations, together with feed guidelines.
While we all know and love Brewer's Yeast as the ingredient used to ferment sugars to alcohol in the brewing of beer, it is also unquestionably a phenominally nutritious supplement covering just about all the bases for human and equine health.
Brewer's yeast is not a live yeast – it consists of the ground, dried cells of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a one-celled plant that is a variety of fungus. For this reason BY acts as a superior complimentary prebiotic because it feeds the live stuff with the dead version of itself.
- A quick mention on prebiotics and probiotics – the two names can sometimes understandably cause confusion - despite the similarity in their names, prebiotics and probiotics are not just two different forms of a similar supplement - they are actually two completely different types of supplements with unique mechanisms of action, with probiotics being the 'good' microbes and bacteria, and prebiotics the foods that feed those good microbes and bacteria; together they are fed to stimulate the growth or activity of bacteria that live in the horse’s gastrointestinal tract.
BY is an excellent all-rounder broad-spectrum supplement in its own right – in addition to being an excellent nutritional supplement, it improves skin health, helps control diarrhea, and repels insects thanks to the generous content of thiamine. BY’s ability to repel ticks and fleas is well known to pet owners – simply sprinkle on feed. I also remember many moons ago when I did one of my backpack trips to the Far East, and shovelled Vit.B supplements into myself to repel the malaria and dengue-fever mozz – I remember my skin smelt of Marmite! Thankfully I’m a lover, not a hater . . .
BY contains all the essential amino acids, 14 minerals and 17 vitamins. It is one of the best natural sources of the B-complex vitamins thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6, pantothenic acid, biotin and folic acid. It also has an excellent compliment of trace minerals, including chromium, zinc, iron, phosphorus and selenium.
BY is also a good source of protein - it contains approximately 16g of protein per 30g of powdered yeast. It’s also a good source of RNA, an immune-enhancing nucleic acid that may help in the prevention of degenerative diseases and slowing the aging process.
BY is often recommended to regulate blood sugar levels, reason being that it’s one of the best sources of the mineral chromium, and chromium is an important factor in regulating blood sugar levels - in the human world, just 2 tablespoons of brewer's yeast yields about 120 micrograms (μg) of chromium, an amount equal to the recommended daily allowance. High levels of chromium increase glucose tolerance.
Diabetes and hypoglycemia are two conditions in which blood sugar levels are unstable, and BY has been reported to help improve symptoms of both, and may even act to prevent diabetes from developing. One Danish study reported that people with hypoglycemia showed an improvement in their symptoms after taking 2tbsp of brewer's yeast every day for one month. This is why we feature it in both our BareEssential Conditioner blend and our EquiVita Mineral Balancer blend, both being very useful for hoof conditioning and strength.
B-complex vitamins are important for healthy skin and nails (hooves!), with a compound derived from brewer's yeast, SRF (skin respiratory factor) reportedly having wound healing properties – again in the human world, SRF has been a component in over-the-counter hemorrhoid remedies for decades. BY is also highly recommended in the treatment of dermatitis, so extremely useful for mud fever.
BY is also thought to help enable healthy gut motility. 30g of BY contains approximately 6g dietary fibre (24% of the recommended human daily amount). BY also helps in cases of loose stools as the yeast acts to encourage the growth of good bacteria in the GI tract.
As if all this wasn’t enough, BY is also considered helpful in the treatment of fatigue or low energy.
All in all, fabulous stuff! Marmite on toast coming up :-)