Thehorse.com - Full Article
by: Shannon Pratt-Phillips, MSc, PhD
March 01 2011, Article # 18816
These sugars, starches, and fibers are important energy sources for the horse and crucial to equine digestive health.
From glucose to frustose to lactose--not to mention a laundry list of other "oses"--carbohydrates can be incredibly confusing. But this group of sugar-based compounds, also called saccharides, comprises important energy sources for the horse. Therefore, understanding them and utilizing them in your horse's diet are crucial. They also are a major component of forages, a staple of the horse's diet, and are required for digestive health.
The simplest carbohydrates are monosaccharides (made up of one unit and also called simple sugars), such as glucose, fructose, xylose, and galactose. Another type of carbohydrate is a disaccharide (two sugars bonded together), which includes lactose (found commonly in milk, made from a unit of glucose and galactose) and sucrose (table sugar, made from glucose and fructose). Then there are oligosaccharides (three to 200 units each) and polysaccharides, or "complex carbohydrates" (each made up of multiple units, typically 200-2,000, which include compounds such as starch and cellulose). Cellulose is considered a type of dietary fiber, along with hemicellulose, lignin, pectins, and fructans.
How Carbs Work
After a horse consumes the carbohydrates found in forages and grains, the actions of enzymes found primarily in the small intestine break disaccharides and starch into monosaccharides that are then absorbed into the bloodstream, where they are converted for energy or energy storage (more on this in a moment). Dietary fibers, on the other hand, such as cellulose, hemicellulose, and pectins, are not digested by enzymes, but instead undergo fermentation...
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