There are often a lot of misconceptions about sugar both in our diets and in our horses, however it is essential to life for us all and something that we should take the time to fully understand.
We all, including our equines, need sugar to be able to perform normal physiological functions. Glucose is the primary energy source utilised by body cells and organs including the brain, making it impossible for our horses (and us!) to survive without sugar! Glucose is in fact the only energy source the brain can use. If the horse is not supplied with enough sugar through the diet then they will convert other nutrients into glucose to meet that demand.
So what is sugar?
Sugar is a carbohydrate, like starch and fibre, and sugar can be split into types depending on the number of units they contain:
- Monosaccharides or ‘simple sugars’ consist of a single unit. These include glucose (blood sugar), fructose (fruit sugar) and galactose.
- Disaccharides consist of two units and include sucrose (the kind that goes in your tea and the sugar contained in molasses!), lactose (milk sugar) and maltose (from partially digested starch).
- Oligosaccharides are made up of multiple units and include fructans and starch.
More information on Sugar below…