Could Algae-Derived Calcium Help Prevent Stomach Ulcers?
Horses consume small amounts of feed continuously and continuously secrete stomach acid. However, an empty stomach for periods of time between ingestion (during transport, or when fed a small number of large meals) excess secreted acid may splash the upper vulnerable part of the stomach causing ulceration. Reducing stomach content pH could prevent acid damage to the sensitive upper stomach wall in these conditions.
Calcium may act as a buffer, although its hyper-active inorganic form might reduce digestive acid activity. Algae naturally contain calcium could serve as a slower buffer, allowing proper digestion while preventing long term ulcerations, as well as containing many other useful minerals to be utilised. This study investigated whether high natural calcium levels in algae affect gastric ulceration in horses by gradually reducing the pH without resorting to medication.
Ten horses with existing stomach ulcers were selected, as ascertained by endoscopy, with an average ulceration score of 2.2 ± 0.75, according to the EGUC scoring system based on the degree of severity and number of lesions. The horses were maintained on their unchanged normal diet by the owner with the addition of 40 g per day of the high-calcium algae supplement, containing 32% organic Calcium, as well as Chloride, Magnesium and other nutritional minerals, for 30 days.
All horses showed significant improvement in ulcer score, namely 0-1. Seven showed no ulcer evidence, and three had low levels of inflammation and scar tissue, most likely indicative of healing.
Expert opinion by Shirley Ferber
This study used a commercial supplement called Maxia Complete® (Seahorse supplements Ltd.) derived from Calcerous red algae harvested the North Atlantic Ocean. It demonstrated that feeding a natural source of calcium from algae reduced the acid damage to the stomach mucosa and reduced ulceration scores. The small group size and varied diets and management warrant further studies to compare this activity to inorganic calcium compounds, as well as investigate efficacy in ulceration control and the subsequent impact on protein digestion. Also, consideration of other biologically and chemically effective components of this algae has been disregarded and should be more thoroughly examined, as horses do not usually consume marine plants.
Always remember that a balanced meal and proper feeding management are the keys for ulcer prevention, supplements should be used for support and relief only.
> From: Moir et al., Journal of Applied Animal Nutrition 4 (2016) 1-3. All rights reserved to © Cambridge University Press and Journal of Applied Animal Nutrition Ltd. 2016. Click here for the online summary.