Horses Absorb Components of Gelatin, Researchers Find

In 2006, a pair of researchers who reviewed the literature on gelatin (hydrolyzed collagen) in humans found that it is absorbed intestinally and accumulates in cartilage. They also reported that supplementing gelatin led to a significant increase in the production of new tissue by cartilage cells. Their conclusion: gelatin might help patients affected by joint disorders such as osteoarthritis. But can these findings be extrapolated to horses, which are given gelatin not only for joint support but also for healthy tendons, ligaments, and hooves?

The answer is: partially. Scientists in Germany recently conducted a study to determine if gelatin supplementation in horses would assist in cartilage repair. They fed 12 horses a regular hay and grain diet supplemented with soybean meal and oil if they were in the control group, or supplemented with 60 grams of gelatin if they were in the test group. Both groups of horses underwent the same training program and blood sampling. After as little as six days, horses in the test group had significantly higher blood levels of glycine and proline, amino acids found in high concentrations in gelatin. They concluded that the amino acids from gelatin are absorbed quickly by the horse and become available for amino acid metabolism. Further research is needed to determine if the amino acids from gelatin are specifically utilized in the prevention or repair of cartilage or other connective tissues.

Bello AE, Oesser S. Collagen hydrolysate for the treatment of osteoarthritis and other joint disorders: a review of the literature. Curr Med Res Opin. 2006 Nov;22(11):2221-32.

Coenen M, Appelt K, Niemeyer A, Vervuert I. Study of gelatin supplemented diet on amino acid homeostasis in the horse. Equine Vet J Suppl. 2006 Aug;(36):606-610.

Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA, is medical director/staff veterinarian for SmartPak Equine.

About the Author

Lydia Gray, DVM, MA

Lydia Gray, DVM, is Medical Director and Staff Veterinarian for SmartPak Equine. She was previously the executive director of the Hooved Animal Humane Society in Woodstock, IL, and an Owner Education Director for the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

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