Your horse’s health, happiness and performance depend on normal functioning of the nervous system and muscles. All nutrients have a role to play but some are particularly important.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant which becomes incorporated directly into the membranes surrounding cells and also structures within the cells. These membranes are made of phospholipids which are very vulnerable to attack by free radicals generated from toxic minerals or during immune system activity.
The nervous system is known to be particularly sensitive to oxidative damage from free radical attacks. The muscles are also at high risk even in good health because of the huge amount of free radicals generated during the production of energy.
If vitamin E is the king of antioxidants in the fatty/lipid structures, glutathione rules in the water based interior of the cells. Maintaining glutathione activity depends heavily on vitamin E’s partner, selenium. Selenium is needed to maintain glutathione in an active state. Selenium is also incorporated into protein structures at the active site of enzymes like glutathione peroxidase. Selenoproteins may themselves additionally act directly as antioxidants.
Acetyl-L-cartinine is a metabolite of L-carnitine and is a very versatile compound in both nervous tissue and muscle. In nerves, it supports the production of a protective layer, the myelin sheath, on nerve axons which are the long “tails” of nerves which communicate with other nerves. ALCAR supports normal sensory activity in nerves and the spinal cord. It is also an antioxidant, promotes production of mitochondria and directs glucose into energy pathways – benefits for both nerves and muscles.
All cells are primarily protein. Most diets have adequate total protein but may come up short is key essential amino acids – lysine, methionine and threonine. Another amino acid that must be in the diet because the horse cannot make it is L-leucine, which has important functions in neuromuscular tissues.
Leucine is both a structural protein and an energy source in both tissues. In muscle, leucine and its metabolite HMB are also the major stimulants for muscle growth. In the brain, leucine is pivotal in maintaining neurotransmitter balance. It is the first amino acid the brain extracts from blood.
We know a great deal about basic nutritional requirements but the realm of what constitutes optimal nutrition is still not well defined. Needs change when tissues are being stressed. By learning the key nutrients and metabolites, you can help support the challenged systems when the need arises.
Eleanor Kellon, VMD