Vitamin-rich berries may help prevent glandular ulcers in horses

Adding sea buckthorn berries to the diet of horses could reduce the incidence of glandular gastric ulcers, report researchers.

The study results show that gastric ulcer incidence and severity increases significantly among stall-confined horses undergoing intermittent feed-deprivation, but that after treatment with SeaBuck Gastro Plus liquid - a commercial product based on the berries and pulp of the Hippophae rhamnoides plant - glandular ulcer severity was significantly reduced compared with no treatment.

The same association was not seen for nonglandular gastric ulcers, however.

Furthermore, the addition of SeaBuck did not significantly increase the horses' gastric juice pH levels, remarks the research team.

"Sea buckthorn berries and pulp are high in lipiphilic and hydrophilic bioactive compounds such as vitamins C and E, carotenoids, flavonoids, fatty acids, plant sterols, ligans, and minerals," explain Frank Andrews (Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, USA) and colleagues in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

The berries "might act to attenuate oxidative stress that may initiate and aggravate glandular gastric ulcers in horses, which has been shown in the cardiovascular system of rats," they add.

Eight thoroughbred and thoroughbred-cross horses underwent a two-period crossover study, during which they acted as their own controls by undergoing 4 weeks of treatment with sea buckthorn berries or no treatment, before crossing over to the other treatment group. Each treatment phase was followed by a 1-week period of intermittent food deprivation to induce/exacerbate gastric ulcers.

Horses underwent gastroscopic examination after both study periods to assess stomach health, and assign scores for the number and severity of glandular and nonglandular ulcers as well as gastric fluid pH.

In all, five horses did not have gastric ulcers before the study began, and after the 5-week study period, mean gastric ulcer scores did not differ significantly between those who received SeaBuck and those who did not. The presence and severity of gastric ulcers increased significantly as a result of the food deprivation week, however.

The researchers observed no significant difference in number or severity of nonglandular gastric ulcers between the SeaBuck and no treatment periods, with mean scores of 2.63 and 3.13, and 2.00 and 2.50, respectively.

Conversely, glandular gastric ulcer number and severity fell significantly lower after the SeaBuck treatment period compared with the control period, with mean scores of 0.00 and 0.00, compared with 1.25 and 0.88, respectively, write the authors.

They suggest that horses may need to receive SeaBuck for longer periods to see an effect on nonglandular ulcers.

No differences were observed in the gastric juice pH levels of any horse during the study period, with levels of 3.97 and 3.01 after week 5 of the untreated and SeaBuck-treated phases, respectively, the team concludes.

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