Research: Purina SuperSport Amino Acid Supplement

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I had the chance to review the research that went into developing the new Purina SuperSport amino acid supplement and talk to the researcher who developed this product. Following is information from that research.

We spoke with Kelly Vineyard, PhD, a Research Equine Nutritionist with Purina Animal Nutrition, about Purina’s new SuperSport amino acid supplement that was launched earlier this year to learn more about why and how Purina nutritionists created this product, and the research behind it.

In 2011, Purina create the WellSolve Well-Gel veterinary product that was high-protein and designed to be used in horses recovering from injury and surgery that were unwilling or unable to eat normally.

The WellSolve Well-Gel product was designed to be nutritionally complete and be fed as a “low-bulk enteral supplement…it supplies easily-digestible fiber to support a healthy hindgut microbial population while providing 100% of the horse’s protein, vitamin, and mineral (including electrolyte) requirements when fed at a rate of 0.3% of body weight per day. The formula is fortified with glutamine to support enterocyte integrity and high-quality added amino acids to help prevent loss of muscle mass. The proprietary ingredients allow for easy administration through a nasogastric tube, and the low sugar and starch formula is suitable for horses requiring a soluble carbohydrate-restricted diet. For horses that are able to consume feed voluntarily, WellSolve Well-Gel is palatable enough to be fed as a slurry or top-dress.”

Some vets and horse owners started feeding this powdered product as a top-dress to sport horses that needed muscle development or were not “bouncing back” as quickly as they should from competition, with reportedly good success.

Building off of this success, Vineyard decided to use Well-Gel as a prototype, making adjustments to the formula and adding specific nutrients that would benefit horses in high-intensity exercise (such as vitamin E and other anti-oxidants). The formula was produced as a palatable pelleted supplement to be fed to horses in a controlled research trial.

The trial had two groups of horses that were fed the same base diet. One group was supplemented with Purina SuperSport, and the other group (control) was supplemented with alfalfa pellets in order to insure all horse consumed the same amount of protein on a daily basis.

Horses were fed their respective diets for eight weeks while undergoing a moderate exercise program. At the beginning and end of the study, blood samples were taken prior to and during a graded exercise test (GXT) performed on a high speed treadmill to determine fitness level and exercise recovery. In addition, overall muscle development was also evaluated.

“We were happy with what we saw,” said Vineyard. “Improved recovery from exercise was the most significant finding.”

According to the research findings: “Over the 56-day trial, body condition score remained the same in both groups, but bodyweight and rump fat decreased in horses supplemented with SuperSport (SS) (P<0.05). Fat-free mass, which is defined as all tissues in the body not composed of fat and includes muscle, bone, tendons, organs, and blood, increased in horses supplemented with SS but not alfalfa pellets (AP) (P<0.05). Subjective muscle mass scores increased over time in both groups (P<0.05). Forearm and gaskin circumference decreased in both groups over time (P<0.05), but forearm circumference was higher in horses supplemented with SS than AP at day 56 (P<0.05; Figure 2). During the GXT, top speed was greater in horses supplemented with SS versus AP at day 56 (P<0.05; Figure 3). From day 0 to day 56, VO2 max increased in horses supplemented with SS, but not in AP (P<0.05; Figure 4). On day 56 at 24-hours following the GXT, serum creatine kinase was lower in horses supplemented with SS than AP (P<0.05; Figure 5) and serum AST was not different between treatment groups (P<0.05). VLa4 during the GXT increased from day 0 to day 56 in horses supplemented with SS (P<0.05) but did not change in AP. There was a trend for maximum heart rate during the GXT to decrease from day 0 to day 56 in horses supplemented with SS and increase in horses supplemented with AP (P<0.10). There was also a trend for time to fatigue to be greater in horses supplemented with SS than AP at day 56 (P<0.10). At day 56, plasma glucose during the GXT was higher (P<0.05) in SS than AP at every step until horses reached a speed of 11 m/s.”

The implications of this research were noted as follows: Daily supplementation of Purina SuperSport Supplement resulted in rapid muscle recovery (lower levels of creatine kinase 24-hours after exercise), increased exercise capacity (improvements in VO2 max, VLa4, maximum heart rate, and time to fatigue), and a shift to a more athletic body type (decreased body fat, increased fat-free mass, higher forearm circumference and improved muscle mass scores). Feeding Purina SuperSport Supplement, which contains a significant proportion of high-quality amino acids not typically supplemented in horse diets, had a positive impact on aspects of exercise metabolism, recovery, and muscle development and can benefit the hard-working equine athlete.”

Editor’s Note: This research is available from Purina as a downloadable PDF at www.SuperSportReady.com.

This product is designed for any horse considered an athlete, said Vineyard. She added that this could include any horse from a three-day eventer or racehorse to a lesson horse that works regularly during the week. Vineyard recommended the product for horses in active training and competition, or any horse that is debilitated and has lost muscle and condition, including post-surgical horses. Vineyard also said this is a good product for veterinarians to use to transition horses off of WellSolve Well-Gel and onto a regular feeding program.

“But,” said Vineyard, “the horse needs to be in exercise for the supplement to work optimally. We have, however, fed SuperSport to horses that were not working and saw results, just not as much as we could have seen if the horse was in an exercise program.”

She noted that this research was presented at the 2013 Equine Science Society symposium and was published in the Journal of Veterinary Science.