Used for a century in large single doses as a purgative, flaxseed oil is now fed on a regular daily basis for its content of Omega 3 Fatty Acid (FA). Omega 3 FA’s are considered to be anti-inflammatory in nature being involved in the creation of cytokines which regulate the normal inflammatory response. By contrast, Omega 6 FA’s are regarded as being pro-inflammatory mediators of prostaglandins and eicosanoids which can cause inflammatory damage to cells.
Both Omega 3 and Omega 6 are essential FA’s meaning they cannot be manufactured by the body and must come from the diet. The forage diet of wild horses was biased towards Omega 3 intake, with up to 5 times as much Omega 3 as Omega 6 FA. This ratio is reversed in the diet of stabled horses fed on a combination of grains, manufactured feeds, and hay with as much as 18 times the Omega 6 intake as Omega 3. The potential impact of this pro-inflammatory ratio extends down to every cell in the body.
Flaxseed Oil contains 52% Omega 3 and only 17% Omega 6 with a O3: O6 ratio of 3.1: 1. It is a good source of alpha linolenic acid, the Omega 3 FA found naturally in plants and pasture, but which deteriorates rapidly once those are dried to produce hay. When used as a supplement it can help restore the natural balance of fatty acids in the equine diet and potentially reduce inflammatory processes.