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Chromium for Improvement of Insulin Sensitivity in Horses

Dietary chromium propionate has been proposed as a supplement to help improve insulin sensitivity in horses suffering from insulin dysfunction, particularly in aging or obese individuals.
fat horse in field

This study compared effects of feeding chromium at various doses—0, 2, 4 or 8 mg.

Dietary chromium propionate has been proposed as a supplement to help improve insulin sensitivity in horses suffering from insulin dysfunction, particularly in aging or obese individuals. A study examined the use of chromium in 48 healthy Quarter Horse geldings age 3-8 years [Spears, J.W.; Lloyd, K.E.; Sicilian, P.; et al. Chromium propionate increases insulin sensitivity in horses following oral and intravenous carbohydrate administration. Journal of Animal Science 2020, Vol 97, no. 4; 10.1093/jas/skaa095].

The daily diet of the study horses consisted of 0.2 kg/100 kg body weight of concentrate and 1.75- 2.0 kg/100 kg bodyweight of grass hay. The study compared effects of feeding chromium at various doses—0, 2, 4 or 8 mg.

At the start of the study and at Day 28 after an overnight fast, blood samples were obtained at 0, 2, and 4 hours after concentrate was fed. Those samples were evaluated for glucose, insulin and non-esterified fatty acids. On Day 42, the horses were given a glucose tolerance test.

Horses fed 2 or 4 mg chromium per day:

  • Had lower plasma glucose than the other doses (none or 8 mg) at day 0.
  • Had lower plasma glucose at 2 and 4 hours post feeding.
  • Serum insulin was less at 4 hours after feeding compared to horses given 8 mg chromium.
  • Following glucose infusion for the glucose tolerance test, serum insulin was greater for horses fed 2, 4 and 8 mg chromium.

In summary, feeding 2 or 4 mg of chromium propionate per day did increase insulin sensitivity following oral carbohydrate consumption. While the healthy, young horses in this the study were not insulin resistant, this study might be a jumping off point for further studies on use of chromium in metabolically challenged older horses.

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