How Sweet is Your Sweet Feed?

Researchers found that horses’ sugar intake from texturized and pelleted products was relatively similar.

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Horses with increased energy requirements—equine athletes, growing horses, and broodmares—often consume concentrates as part of their diet. Most concentrates have high levels of digestible carbohydrates, such as starch and sugars, which horses use for energy. Commercially manufactured concentrates are available either in a pelleted form or as a sweet feed. Some horse owners have been moving away from sweet feeds (textured feeds) because of a perception that they contain greater sugar and starch concentrations than their pelleted counterparts. This concern is based on the visible molasses and sticky texture of sweet feeds. However, are sweet feeds really sweeter than pelleted feeds?

Some manufacturers offer feeds in both a sweet feed and pelleted form. To evaluate whether sweet feeds had more sugar than pelleted feeds, researchers at the University of Kentucky compared three products that had both pelleted and sweet feed options. The team analyzed the feeds for starch (long chains of glucose) and ethanol soluble carbohydrates (ESC). The ethanol soluble carbohydrate fraction includes simple sugars (such as glucose, sucrose, and fructose). The researchers also looked at the ingredient list to determine whether molasses was present. Table 1 (below) shows the comparison between the pelleted and textured feeds examined.

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