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Including honey in the equine diet is common in some countries, but is it safe?
Posted by Clair Thunes, PhD | Sep 17, 2018
Q. I recently learned that feeding honey to horses is a common practice in some Eastern European and Middle Eastern countries. Why would you feed honey and is it safe?
A. One tablespoon of honey (21 grams) contains 17 grams of sugar. Therefore, the main reason behind feeding honey to horses is that it’s a readily available energy source. Honey’s sweetness might also entice picky eaters to consume their rations.
Like table sugar, honey is made up of glucose and fructose; however, where table sugar contains almost equal amounts of glucose and fructose, honey is about 40% fructose and 30% glucose. Honey also contains small amounts of other more complex sugars, as well as trace amounts of protein, enzymes, vitamins, and minerals.
As an unrefined food source, honey contains more antioxidants, flavonoids, and alkaloids than refined sugar and raw honey contains small amounts of pollen. These differences, combined with the higher fructose content, lead to honey having a lower glycemic index (GI) than sugar, meaning blood sugar levels rise more quickly after sugar consumption compared to honey. However, both compounds have high GI making them unsuitable for horses with poor insulin sensitivity or that are sensitive to readily available carbohydrate, such as those with polysaccharide storage myopathy...
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