Wednesday, June 4, 2014

June 2014 - Metabolic rate and leptin resistance

Self-regulating forage intake is something that horses will naturally do, when given the chance of knowing that the hay is always available.  But, for some horses, it takes more time and this can be an issue if the horse is already overweight and is gaining far more than you can reasonably stand.

This horse, who eats and eats and eats non-stop, and doesn't appear to self-regulate is suffering from a very sluggish metabolic rate along with leptin resistance.  This is a cumulative result of many years of forage restriction which slows down the metabolic rate, resulting in easy weight gain once the horse has more to eat. We see this with people all the time -- go on a strict diet, lose weight, and gain it all back (and more!) once you start eating normally again. This is all because the metabolic rate has been damaged to become very slow.

Leptin is another issue.  This hormone is secreted from fat cells and when it rises, it normally tells the horse that he is satisfied and to stop eating. But, when body fat gets too high, the horse can become resistant to leptin, and no longer respond normally. So he continues to eat without ever getting the signal that he has had enough.

The solution?  Exercise!  Exercise not only burns calories, but more importantly, exercise causes the horse to become more sensitive to leptin and his appetite will be satisfied with less food.  Also, the metabolic rate increases. Furthermore, exercise makes cells more responsive to insulin, allowing insulin levels to normalize and fat to be burned (when insulin is high, it tells the body to store fat).

Another part of the solution is to use slow feeders.  I have an article on this topic coming up in my June/July issue of Forage for Thought.  Watch for it in your email -- it sometimes goes into your spam folder.  I will be sending it out today (June 4th).  If you do not currently get Forage for Thought, be sure to sign up by going to my homepage -