Photo credit: Mark Barrett. Sponsored Content by Kentucky Equine Research. Antioxidants protect cell membranes throughout the body and therefore support overall health. Specifically, antioxidants counter the effects of “reactive oxygen species,” also known as free radicals, which damage cell membranes.
Free radicals increase due to environmental stressors, exercise, and inadequate antioxidant stores. As researchers continue to study antioxidants, they discover even more advantages of feeding antioxidants to horses.
One antioxidant in particular, coenzyme Q10, is an essential part of cellular bioenergetics, specifically in the production of adenosine triphosphate, a compound that provides energy to cells. In addition to its direct antioxidant and energetic properties, coenzyme Q10 is also capable of recycling and revitalizing other antioxidants, such as vitamins E and C. Other important functions of coenzyme Q10 have been recognized recently, including cell signaling and gene expression.
Coenzyme Q10 is instrumental in reducing oxidative stress, defined as an imbalance in the equilibrium of antioxidants and oxidants in favor of oxidants. Oxidative stress occurs in horses involved in many exercise scenarios—from those performing high-intensity exercise (e.g., endurance, show jumping, racing) to untrained horses unaccustomed to exercise.
A recent study completed by Kentucky Equine Research in collaboration with Stephanie Valberg, D.V.M., Ph.D., demonstrated that Kentucky Equine Research’s nanodispersed liquid coenzyme Q10 product, Nano-Q10™, promotes oxidative metabolism in skeletal muscle by increasing mitochondrial oxidative enzymes in conjunction with decreasing glycolytic enzymes.
In an effort to shed more light on the effects of vitamin E and coenzyme Q10 on exercise-induced oxidative stress in horses, European researchers designed a study using 40 healthy, untrained leisure horses.*
Vitamin E and coenzyme Q10 were offered twice daily for 14 days to all horses along with their regular diet of oats, hay, and water. These horses were divided into one of four treatment groups: unsupplemented control; vitamin E-only group, receiving natural vitamin E oil at a dose of 1.8 IU/kg body weight/day; coenzyme Q10 group, receiving 800 mg/day; and a combination vitamin E and coenzyme Q10, receiving the same doses as the single supplement groups.
After the two-week supplementation period, all horses participated in moderate exercise. Blood samples were collected at four predetermined time points: (1) baseline prior to antioxidant supplementation, (2) 14 days after supplementation but before exercise, (3) at the end of the exercise program, and (4) 24 hours after exercise.
The blood samples were evaluated for various measures of oxidative stress. Vitamin E and coenzyme Q10 levels were also assessed. The study discovered supplementation of coenzyme Q10 and vitamin E together was more beneficial than when supplemented alone. The levels observed in this study indicated that this combination of supplements prevented lipid peroxidation in those horses who were not previously exposed to an exercise regimen.
Supplementation with coenzyme Q10 has also resulted in reproductive benefits. Most notably, coenzyme Q10 improves semen quality and motility in stallions. As explained by Catherine Whitehouse, M.S., a nutrition advisor for Kentucky Equine Research, “Dietary supplements such as the antioxidant coenzyme Q10 and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) may improve sperm quality parameters in stallions with suboptimal fertility. Coenzyme Q10 plays a role in energy production of spermatozoa and, in part, motility. Positive improvements in motility have been observed within 2 to 4 weeks after beginning supplementation.”
To conclude, supplementation of coenzyme Q10, such as Nano-Q10, is beneficial for those horses that are exercised or used for breeding frequently. Due to the benefits of coenzyme Q10 and its effects on oxidative metabolism in skeletal muscle, Valberg, a leading authority on muscle problems in horses, recommends Nano-Q10 be fed with MFM Pellet™ to protect muscle cells from exercise-related oxidative damage.
*Svete, A.N., T. Vovk, M.B. Topolovec, and P. Kruljc. 2021. Effects of vitamin E and coenzyme Q10 supplementation on oxidative stress parameters in untrained leisure horses subjected to acute moderate exercise. Antioxidants 10:908.
Kentucky Equine Research is an international equine nutrition, research, and consultation company serving horse owners and the feed industry. The company advances the industry’s knowledge of equine nutrition and exercise physiology, applies that knowledge to produce healthier, more athletic horses, and supports the nutritional care of all horses throughout their lives. Learn more at ker.com.