Why include Omega-6 fats in the O3 Animal Health Products?

Question: Looking at your product analysis I see that Equine Omega Complete contains more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3. Aren’t omega-6 fatty acids bad? I thought they cause inflammation. 

You are correct that Equine Omega Complete has a 5:1 omega-6 to omega:3 fatty acid ratio and it is true that omega-6 fatty acids may cause inflammation however they are also essential nutrients meaning that they must be present in the diet. Ultimately what is important is the amount of omega-3 and 6 fats in the horse’s entire diet and whether the diet has a balanced omega fat profile. 

While omega-6 fats can result in inflammation it’s important to recognize that not all inflammation is bad. If your horse cuts himself there needs to be inflammation so that the cut closes and can heal. The problem is when inflammation gets out of control. 

Based on research in other species, consensus exists amongst equine nutritionists that there is likely an ideal ratio between the amount of omega-6 fatty acid and omega-3 fatty acid in the horse’s diet. The thing is that we don’t know what that ideal ratio is despite the fact that many companies will tell you that their product provides the ideal ratio of these essential fats. There is some research that suggests that it is not so much about the ratio between the two that is important but rather the absolute quantity of both that influences the conversion of the precursor fatty acids to their longer chain end products and ultimately their biologic action. More research is clearly needed for clarification of this topic.

What we do know is that the horse’s natural diet of quality fresh pasture grass is relatively low in fat but that the majority of that fat is omega-3 fat. We also know that when you cut grass and dry it to make hay that a good amount of the omega-3 fat is lost. Therefore, horses on hay based diets tend to be consuming lower levels of omega-3 fats than those with access to unlimited good quality pasture. 

Most of the ingredients commonly used in horse feeds such as grains, rice bran and various vegetable oils tend to be higher in omega-6 fats but the truth is that many horses do not get fed feeds that provide much in the way of omega-6 fat either and therefore an additional source in the diet may be beneficial. There is a lot of conversation online about omega fats and the equine diet with many people believing that you should only add supplemental sources of omega-3 fat but the National Research Council clearly states that both 3 and 6 are essential. 

When it comes to omega-3 fats they are not all created equal. Plant-based omega 3’s which are the most commonly supplemented form are made up primarily of the fatty acid ALA. In the body it must be converted to the longer chain fatty acids EPA and DHA in order to be utilized in the horse. Research shows that the conversion process is quite inefficient with as little as only 1% to 10% being converted. To better meet the horse’s needs it is ideal to directly supplement them with the longer chain versions (EPA and DHA) so that no conversion is necessary. The most common source of EPA and DHA is fish oil. However, fish oil on its own tends not to be very palatable. This is one reason why we mix fish oil with Organic Soybean oil for our products at O3 Animal Health. 

Why not mix it with another omega-3 fat oil such as flax? Rancidity. Unfortunately, flax oil is not very stable; it starts to degrade when in contact with oxygen and is negatively impacted by heat and light. Soybean oil has better shelf stability and unlike some other common vegetable oils like corn oil, Soybean oil does provide some omega-3 fat. Additionally, because the Soybean oil in the O3 Animal Health products is expeller pressed, many of the beneficial compounds such as carotenoids and polyphenols are maintained in the oil. 

Most store bought vegetable oils have been filtered to remove these beneficial compounds in order to create a product that always looks the same on the store shelf.  Another benefit of our Soybean oil over store bought soybean oils and other common vegetable oils is that because it is expeller pressed there are no potentially harmful chemical residues in the products. Other store bought oils are typically extracted with chemicals such as hexane and extracted under heat which damages the fatty acids. 

With the O3 Animal health line of products, your horses get the major health benefits associated with DHA and EPA fatty acids in a product that meets their needs for all forms of omega fatty acid. Additionally, you have the peace of mind in knowing that you are not relying on an inefficient conversion process to meet these important needs and they are delivered in a palatable form that is safe for your horse and safe for the environment. The Soybeans that we use to create our oil are USDA Certified organic, and non-gmo, which are important differences from the average soybeans that are used in 99% of products in the USA, which are genetically modified, not organic, and likely treated with pesticides such as Round Up. 

The bottom line is that omega-3 and 6 fatty acids work hand-in-hand within your horse’s body to ensure that all functions work optimally. This is why here at O3 Animal Health we felt it was important to provide horse owners with products that provide the highest quality of both types of these essential fats. For more details on the specifics of how these fats benefit your horse’s health check out our other blogs posts here.

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Questions? kathleen@o3animalhealth.com or (855) 366-8822‬