Fillers in supplements

You open the bag of supplements and the smell of freshly baked bread waifs from the bag. It smells so good that you wonder if people can eat it. Surely your horse will be interested in this joint supplement.

So how much does it “really” cost to have the fillers in the bag? After all, my horse already gets a “bucket” of soaked pellets or beet pulp to carry the supplements.

Labels can be confusing – and for a reason. Servings in grams, sold in lbs, active ingredients in milligrams, number of day… How do you make sense of it?

How much of active ingredients are actually in the supplement? And what are the “inactive ingredients”? Does the supplement contain alfalfa meal, flax seed, rice bran, sunflower seed meal, wheat middlings? Is the amount of the ingredients significant?

How much of active ingredients are in the supplement?

A popular joint supplement (Supplement A) has a feeding rate of 60 grams per day. It has 4 ingredients – MSM, glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, hyaluronic acid. When you add up the amount in each serving, you get a total of 20 gram. This means that 33% of Supplement A is supplement and 67% of the supplement is filler and binder. This means that you are paying full price per lb for 67% of the supplement being alfalfa meal or wheat middlings.

Let’s take another example of joint supplement (Supplement B) has a feeding rate of 1/2 ounces (14 grams) per day and consists hyaluronic acid in the powder form. It contains the fillers of dextrose and powdered sugar. The amount of HA in this serving is 100 milligrams. 25 ounces for 50 days costs $100. So for the 50 days, I would be paying $100 for 5 grams of HA and 695 grams of powdered sugar. Compare that to My Best Horse HA, which is $2.90 for 5 grams – without any powdered sugar.

Is there enough of the active ingredients?

Some popular supplements contain insufficient amounts of the active ingredients. An example is amino acids. It’s common knowledge that many hays lack sufficient limiting amino acids, such as lysine, methionine, and threonine. But does the supplement contain sufficient amounts of those limiting amino acids? Supplement C was investigated to analyze two of these amino acids. The amount per serving of lysine was 1.4 grams. The recommended amount should be closer to 10 grams. The amount of methionine was about 0.3 grams, with the recommended amount closer to 3 grams.  It’s clear from looking at this supplement that there isn’t enough of those amino acids to be the only supplement source for them.

Should I buy this supplement?

This is where the cost/benefit analysis comes into play. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I feed a tasty bucket that can easily blend in the supplement that I choose?
  • Do I have a picky eater that turns her nose up at anything I try to give?
  • Am I willing to pay the cost for the filler, which can be quite tasty?
  • Do I need to have something easy for the barn to feed?

 How can you make decisions about what you are buying?

  1. Look for the inactive ingredients. Does it say alfalfa meal, flax seed, rice bran, sunflower seed meal, or wheat middlings? These are inexpensive items that add bulk and palatability to the supplement.
  2. Is there enough of the ingredients that you are wanting to supplement? Sometimes the math can get a bit tricky, but it’s worth the time to look into it. At the very least, KNOW what you are paying and why.
  3. Am I willing to pay the price for the tastiness and/or convenience of the supplement?

We try our best to take care of our horses. Be armed with knowledge about what you are supplementing your horse.

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