Equine obesity feeds several common maladies

Some people wonder, "Is obesity a disease?" The answer is it could be. Consider: In early March 2010, researchers at Emory University found that increased appetite and insulin resistance could be transferred from one mouse to another via intestinal bacteria, strengthening the case that intestinal bacteria–germs–can contribute to obesity and metabolic disease.

As the obesity/disease theory pertains to horses, Amanda A. Adams, PhD, of the University of Kentucky's Gluck Equine Research Center, says, "Obesity is a condition that is now described as a mild but chronic inflammatory state and thus is a key risk factor for developing a myriad of health conditions.

Let's take a closer look at how obesity feeds some common equine maladies.

Inflamm-Aging

"We have recently shown that obese old horses have more inflammation in their systems when compared to thin old horses," states Adams. "Termed 'inflamm-aging,' or increased inflammation with old age, age-related obesity contributes to changes in immune function. Although the association between inflamm-aging and disease in the aged horse remains unclear, many diseases of older horses are conditions associated with chronic inflammation such as insulin sensitivity; thus, obesity-associated inflammation in the old horse would likely exacerbate these conditions."

After gradually decreasing body weight and body fat in obese older horses, researchers found the measures of inflammation significantly decreased. "Dietary management modulates this