What’s the ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids in Integrity Adult Senior feed?

The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 for Integrity Adult/Senior with molasses is 3:1 and for No Molasses Adult Senior also 3:1. Integrity formulas contain whole ground flaxseed meal & canola oil which are the primary omega-3 sources.

Note that the ratio is 6 to 3; that is, 6 parts omega-6 to 3 parts omega-3. Often the ratio is incorrectly referenced as the inverse.

The omega ratio is a more frequent question for horse feeds, but the relevance and importance are not known. Keep in mind that the forage of grazing horses is less than 3% fat, the omega-3 form consumed is ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), and that ALA in plants is poorly converted to the beneficial forms DHA & EPA.

Essential fatty acids studies with horses are limited and mixed. The omega-3 (linolenic) requirements has NOT been established for horses and for omega-6 (linoleic) only a “suggested” level based on total feed intake, and that can be easily accomplished via feeding a balance formula with added fat. Thus, the omega-6/omega-3 ratio for horses is also NOT known. The omega-6/omega-3 ratio for humans can NOT be applied to horses or any other herbivore animal. For humans the ratio is 1:1 to 4:1 (omega-6 to omega-3). Any material that implies/suggests benefits for horses are NOT base on substantive, documented research with horses and are mostly anecdotal.

The best plant omega-3 sources are flaxseed oil and whole ground flaxseed meal and that omega form is ALA (α-linolenic acid), which is poorly converted to the DHA or EPA. Canola oil does contain ALA but in modest amounts. Corn, soy, and sunflower oils are good sources of omega-6 fatty acids.

Does it make sense biologically that linoleic (omega-6) and linolenic (omega-3) fatty acids are essential fatty acids for the horse? The answer is yes, but the low fat level, high fiber levels of their natural food sources and a gut system that is forage driven does NOT permit a leap to conclusions that have been discovered in humans with a much longer life-span whose diet is much higher fat and have a gut system that is shorter and different in compartment numbers and capacity.

So, when could the omega-6 and omega-3 ratio be an issue? The following are when the sources of fat in the diet may need to be considered:

  • When feeding inadequate forage with high fat supplemental feeds
  • When feeding a total diet at high fat levels or >10% (note: total diet that is high fat includes forage, concentrates, added fat, supplements, etc.)
  • When feeding more than 10 lbs. of a concentrate that’s >12% fat
  • When a high fat diet that is void of omega-3 ALA fat sources whole ground flaxseed meal, flaxseed oil and/or canola oil

Keep in mind that omega-6 fatty acids have an inflammatory effect which is important for healing. Omega-3 fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory effect which is important to suppress/moderate the inflammatory effect. Yes, an excess of one group of omega fatty acids can interfere with the metabolism of the other but that information was derived from human diets that were high fat; NOT with forage base, high fiber diets of herbivores.

What’s better for skin and hair coat? Early foundation studies on omega fatty acids demonstrated that when feeding omega-6, the symptoms of skin conditions, loss of hair & kidney damage disappeared. Feeding omega-3, the skin symptoms remained, but the animal grew better.

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