Health Benefits of Beta Glucan for Horses

In horses, beta glucan may be useful for:

  • normalizing the rate at which food moves through the digestive tract
  • regulating the release of sugars from the digestive system
  • acting as a powerful stimulant to the immune system
  • reducing LDL cholesterol levels in the blood

Beta glucan, a polysaccharide, is found in a variety of naturally occurring substances, including yeast, barley and oats. Oat flour that is rich in beta glucan as a result of the type of oat and method of processing used, has several profound effects on typical animal systems contributing to overall digestive health.

beta glucan

Beta Glucan Moderates the Rate of Digestion in Horses

When beta glucan is fed alongside hard feed, this soluble fiber creates a hydrogel that helps to moderate the transit of starches through the GI tract.

Slowing the transit of digesta through the gut with beta glucan:

  • allows starches to be digested earlier in the system
  • reduces the negative effects of starch in the hindgut
  • increases nutrient absorption in the GI system
  • regulates the release of sugars in the bloodstream

Digestive imbalance and hindgut acidosis can result when undigested starches and sugars reach the horse’s hindgut, and may lead to additional health conditions, including bacterial overgrowth. Increasing the contact time between the intestinal wall and ingesta allows for more complete digestion in the small intestine, minimizing the amount of simple carbohydrates entering the horse’s cecum and colon.

Beta Glucan Moderates the
Release of Sugar

Beta glucan also moderates the release of sugars from the digestive system, helping to prevent post-feed sugar highs and lows. This may positively influence behavior, especially in horses being fed high starch diets to meet energy demands. Studies have shown that beta glucan is effective in reducing glycemic peaks by up to 50% after feeding.

Beta Glucan Enhances the Immune System

Beta glucan is a potent stimulator of the immune system because it activates and strengthens macrophages, a type of white blood cell that has a specific beta glucan receptor.

Supplementing a horse’s diet with beta glucan may:

  • stimulate macrophages and phagocytosis
  • boost immunity and overall health
  • counteract pathogenic microbes

When a horse develops an ulcer, for instance, beta glucan can aid in healing. While the etiology (that is, the underlying cause) of ulcers in horses is not well understood, research implicates bacteria in the formation of ulcers in many animals. It is difficult to culture bacteria from the equine gastrointestinal tract, but colonic bacteria are known to include a wide variety of pathogenic species. Beta glucan arouses the immune system to mount an attack on pathogenic microbes, fighting infection and healing damaged tissue.

Beta Glucan to Support Equine
Digestive Health

Assess your horse’s health to determine if added digestive support may be beneficial for health and performance.


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Braaten JT, Scott FW, Wood PJ, et al. High beta glucan oat bran and oat gum reduce postprandial blood glucose and insulin in subjects with and without type 2 diabetes. Diabet Med 1994;11:312-8.

Tappy LE, Gugolz E, et al. Effects of breakfast cereals containing various amounts of beta- glucan fibers on plasma glucose and insulin responses in NIDDM subjects. Diabetes Care 19(8):831-4.

Czop JK. The role of beta glucan receptors on blood and tissue leukocytes in phagocytosis and metabolic activation. Pathol Immunopahtol Res 1985;5:286-96.