Study: Prebiotics Don’t Protect The Stomach As Promised

Prebiotics, indigestible fibers that stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the large intestine, are often added to horse feed, though little research has been done to determine if they are truly helpful to a horse’s digestive system.

Dr. Annette Zeyner, head of the animal nutrition group at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg in Germany, and Dr. Gerhad Breves of the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover in Germany, spearheaded research into the effect of the Jerusalem artichoke meal, a common prebiotic in horse feed. The artichoke contains carbohydrates, fructo-oligosaccharides and inulin. Additional members of their study team included M. Glatter, K. Borewicz, B. van den Bogert, M. Wensch-Dorendorf, M. Bochnia and JM Greef.

To study the effects of the prebiotic, the researchers fed six horses the Jerusalem artichoke in addition to their feed; another six horses received a placebo. After 21 days, the bacteria in the horse’s digestive track was analyzed. They determined that the artichoke prebiotic had an impact on the microbial community in the entire gastrointestinal tract.

However, the prebiotics used in the study were breaking down too early and being fermented in the stomach, which created organic acids that can damage the mucus membrane of the stomach. However, the diversity of bacteria in the entire digestive tract increased, which means the prebiotics were producing the desired protective effect as well.

The team suggests that prebiotics may break down in the horse’s stomachs before they can reach the intestine, which can irritate the stomach lining; delivered in the format they are currently in, they are more harmful than beneficial. They suggest that prebiotics be prepared so they don’t break down until they reach the large intestine. The scientists determined that currently prebiotics can only help stabilize intestinal flora to a certain degree.

Read more at HorseTalk.

Read the study here.

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