In vitro degradation of grass fructan by equid gastrointestinal digesta



Laminitis is a debilitating disease of the equid foot and appears to result from altered metabolism due to insulin resistance (IR) or hindgut acidosis. These disorders may be elicited by high intakes of simple sugars or fructans in pasture grasses. The aim was to determine in vitro (i) whether grass fructan is degraded in the equid foregut and (ii) the fermentation kinetics and organic acid production in cultures containing grasses differing in fructan content incubated with an equid hindgut microbial inoculum. When grass fructan was incubated with equid gastric and small intestinal digesta, polymeric fructan was partially degraded to oligo-fructan. When incubated with small intestinal digesta, but not gastric digesta, there was limited net loss of total fructan (oligomeric + polymeric fructan). When Lolium perenne of elevated (PRGH) or moderate (PRGL) fructan content was incubated with an equine hindgut microbial inoculum, the rate of fermentation and accumulation of lactate 6 and 9 h post-inoculation were significantly greater for PRGH than for PRGL (P < 0·05). This may suggest that grass fructan ingested by grazing horses is incompletely digested in the foregut and passes into the hindgut, resulting in elevated production of lactate, which may indirectly lead to metabolic disorders such as laminitis.