We know that the gut microbes provide essential services; they digest the food and assimilate the nutrients, as well as protecting against bacteria that cause illnesses. But did you know the microbiome also produces important nutrients, including the B vitamins and vitamin K?
The B-vitamins play a vital role in health and wellbeing. They help the body release energy from food, create new blood cells, and maintain healthy skin cells, brain cells, and other body tissues.
The good news is that we shouldn't usually need to supplement the B-vitamins because a healthy horse, eating a species-appropriate rough-forage fibre-rich diet - in other words, hay, hay, and more lovely hay - with a healthily functioning gut and microbiome, will produce their own B-vits. See our Why what we feed has to be right for more info.
However, a struggling horse with compromised gut health/faecal water, or during a course of antibiotics, chemical worming, or in very hard work, may need supplementing for a short while.
The B-Vits demystified (after a quick science-y bit)
First up, metabolism equals two things:
- catabolism - breaking down of components, i.e. carbs, fats, proteins, usually to produce energy.
- anabolism - building up of components, i.e. building a protein from amino acids.
- Coenzymes attach to an enzyme to activate it.
- This then enables the enzyme to dismantle (break down), or synthesise (build up) compounds.
Science bit over. So, pulling this together, the Bs are used in many aspects of metabolism but they’re the stars in energy production as coenzymes in catabolic reactions – I know, read it again slowly then repeat. In other words, the Bs' primary role is catalyzing energy production in the body; in other words they activate the enzymes that break down useful stuff to make energy.
The Bs are needed for:
- Healthy nerve conduction and thus muscle action.
- The synthesis of many important neurotransmitters, i.e. serotonin and dopamine.
- The synthesis of fats used in the myelin sheaths of nerve cells. (These last two points mean the Bs are well known for helping with stress)
- Converting amino acids into proteins.
- Converting fats and amino acids into glucose.
- Building haemoglobin which carries oxygen through the body.
The individual Bs
- B1, Thiamin, the carb burner, main function - energy metabolism. Plays a key role in the metabolism of energy in all cells, part of a coenzyme which helps convert pyruvate to acetyl-CoA which produces cellular energy from carbs.
- B2, Riboflavin, the fat burner, main function - energy metabolism. Coenzyme function needed for metabolism of carbs, fats and proteins.
- B3, Niacin, the electron master, main function - energy metabolism. Used in two coenzyme forms for enzymes to accept or donate electrons to make energy or build molecules.
- B5, Pantothenic Acid, the centre of energy, main function - energy metabolism. Coenzyme function essential for the chemical reactions that generate energy from carbs, fats and proteins.
- B6, Pyridoxine, the protein burner, main function – building amino acids and fatty acids. Catalyzes the release of glucose from glycogen for energy. *NOT INCLUDED - the horse can only utilise its own 'active' B6 from its own hindgut production; supplemented B6 is 'inactive'.
- B7, Biotin, the energy catalyst, main function - energy metabolism. Used in four enzymes which donate carbon dioxide, and needed to make energy in cells’ mitochondria.
- B9, Folate, the DNA creator, main function – synthesis of DNA and red blood cells. Coenzymes needed in the metabolism of amino acids and nucleic acids.
- B12, Cobalamin, the blood maker, the most complex of the Bs. Main function – cell synthesis and red blood cells. Again, like B6, the hindgut produces the horses's required B12, so if there's gut disruption/faecal water, feeding hay is going to be your B12 saviour here, as the happier the hindgut fibre-fermenting microbes are, the quicker the B12 production will get back on track. *NOT INCLUDED
And finally, the Bs are water-soluble, and need to be taken together in food or supplements.
Our B-Vit Composition
B1 Thiamine – 30mg
B2 Riboflavin – 30mg
B3 Niacin – 60mg
B4 Choline Chloride – 500mg
B5 Calcium Pantothenate – 30mg
B7 Biotin – 30mg
B9 Folic – 15mg