Beating The Odds With Chromium

Beating The Odds With Chromium



Mineral may lead to greater energy utilization

by Clare Illingworth


Horse breeders and trainers know the key to keeping an athletic horse on top is energy. So, when the mineral chromium became linked to energy utilization in cattle and humans, equine researchers became curious. Was a similar effect possible in horses? Perhaps.


University of Guelph animal science professor John Burton says greater intakes of chromium, a mineral found in plants, may boost the immune system and improve energy utilization. He's working with graduate students Shannon Pratt of the Department of Animal and Poultry Science and Jay Tolton of the Ontario Veterinary College to study levels of the mineral in race horses and its effect on energy regulation and the immune system.


"Keeping our equine athletes healthy and at peak performance is a universal goal in the industry," says Burton. "It's always welcome when a noninvasive approach such as modifying nutrition can be used to maintain a horse's well-being.


Here's what's behind it. Blood sugar (glucose) fuels muscles, and when glucose levels climb to high, the hormone insulin puts some glucose in storage. But sometimes insulin removes too much glucose from the blood, and that disturbs the energy balance, causing chromium levels to lag. Studies have shown that when humans are ill, stressed or exerting themselves physically, larger amounts of chromium get lost in their urine. That means a larger intake is required.


Burton says chromium supplementation may be the solution. In humans and cattle, supplements have been shown to not only prevent large peaks in insulin activity and increase the availability of blood glucose to muscles, but to boost the immune system as well.


Now, he'll be determining if the same is true in horses. It's believed that plant chromium available in feed is not enough for high-performance athletes. But too much chromium supplementation, especially from non-plant sources, can be toxic.


Burton will measure standard chromium out put levels in the urine of both sedentary and exercising horses. Then he'll compare how those levels are affected when chromium is supplemented in larger amounts.


"This study will be of interest to owners seeking peak athleticism, as well as others wanting to take a natural approach to keeping their equine companions in top health," he says.His findings will be available to researchers and local horse trainers this fall. (They must be available now because this was written 11 years ago.)


This study is sponsored by the E.P. Taylor Equine Research Fund.
From Volume XVIII, Number 1
Research, University of Guelph, Spring 2003


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