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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association


Objective—To determine the effects of diet-induced weight gain on glucose and insulin dynamics and plasma hormone and lipid concentrations in horses.

Animals—13 adult geldings.

Procedures—Horses were fed 200% of their digestible energy requirements for maintenance for 16 weeks to induce weight gain. Frequently sampled IV glucose tolerance tests were performed before and after weight gain to evaluate glucose and insulin dynamics. Adiposity (assessed via condition scoring, morphometric measurements, and subcutaneous fat depth) and plasma concentrations of insulin, glucose, nonesterified fatty acids, triglycerides, and leptin were measured on a weekly or biweekly basis.

Results—Mean ± SD body weight increased by 20% from 440 ± 44 kg to 526 ± 53 kg, and body condition score (scale, 1 to 9) increased from 6 ± 1to8 ± 1. Plasma glucose, triglyceride, and nonesterified fatty acid concentrations were similar before and after weight gain. Leptin and insulin concentrations increased with weight gain. Mean ± SD insulin sensitivity decreased by 71 ± 28%, accompanied by a 408 ± 201% increase in acute insulin response to glucose, which resulted in similar disposition index before and after weight gain.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Diet-induced weight gain in horses occurred concurrently with decreased insulin sensitivity that was effectively compensated for by an increase in insulin secretory response. Obesity resulted in hyperinsulinemia and hyperleptinemia, compared with baseline values, but no changes in lipid concentrations were apparent. Preventing obesity is a potential strategy to help avoid insulin resistance, hyperinsulinemia, and hyperleptinemia in horses.

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in American Journal of Veterinary Research


Objective—To determine effects of exercise training without dietary restriction on adiposity, basal hormone and lipid concentrations and glucose and insulin dynamics in overweight or obese, insulin-resistant horses.

Animals—12 overweight or obese (body condition score ≥ 7), insulin-resistant (insulin sensitivity ≤ 1.2 × 10−4 L/min/mU) geldings.

Procedures—4 horses remained sedentary, and 8 horses were exercised for 4 weeks at low intensity and 4 weeks at higher intensity, followed by 2 weeks of detraining. Prior to and after each training period, frequently sampled IV glucose tolerance tests with minimal model analysis were performed and baseline plasma insulin, glucose, triglycerides, non-esterified fatty acids, and leptin concentrations were analyzed. Adiposity was assessed by use of morphometrics, ultrasonic subcutaneous fat thickness, and estimation of fat mass from total body water (deuterium dilution method).

Results—Body weight and fat mass decreased by 4% (mean ± SD, 20 ± 8 kg) and 34% (32 ± 9 kg), respectively, compared with pre-exercise values, with similar losses during low- and higher-intensity training. There was no effect of exercise training on subcutaneous fat thickness, plasma hormone and lipid concentrations, or minimal model parameters of glucose and insulin dynamics.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results suggested that moderate exercise training without concurrent dietary restriction does not mitigate insulin resistance in overweight or obese horses. A more pronounced reduction in adiposity or higher volume or intensity of exercise may be necessary for improvement in insulin sensitivity in such horses.

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in American Journal of Veterinary Research