Insulin-Resistance - Equine Chia

Insulin-Resistance, Equine Cushings Syndrome

Cresty Neck

Cresty neck is a common symptom of Insulin-Resistance.


Equine Cushings Syndrome, Equine Metabolic Disorder and Insulin Resistance are conditions that often come to the attention of many professionals and owners in the horse industry. IR symptoms include a cresty neck, weight gain or weight loss, tying-up, stocking-up, hoof soreness and laminitis.

There is no specific cure for IR horses, however, effective treatments aim at modifying the diet to achieve and maintain an acceptable body condition score. Some experts feel that a horse with IR should have a total diet at 10% non-structural carbohydrate (NSC) levels.  CHIA SEED is considered a Dietetic Nutritional Supplement by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States of America.

Cushing's Syndrome in horses has some of the same characteristics as Insulin Resistance and Diabetes in people. The general seriousness of the metabolic disorder is very similar, including glucose metabolism and circulatory problems.

Glucose (sugar) functions to fuel metabolic processes in the body. Insulin is normally produced in response to elevated blood glucose and is key to the regulation of blood glucose concentrations. Insulin resistance is defined as a reduced sensitivity of the body's cells to insulin's facilitation of glucose uptake.

Diet Modification

A balanced, healthy diet will help your horse's blood sugar levels to remain in equilibrium. Blood sugar spikes are unhealthy. Big peaks or valleys can cause undue stress to a horse's digestive system from his adrenal glands to the circulation in his feet. High sugar, high starch foods such as grains and molasses are a leading cause of blood sugar spikes, especially in horses with metabolic issues. These feeds have high NSC levels. Blood sugar levels are measured by what is known as The Glycemic Index.

Chia is a very low NSC (non-structural carbohydrate). Chia forms a mucilaginous gel in the digestive tract and creates a physical barrier between carbohydrates and the digestive enzymes that break them down, thus slowing the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar. The slower metabolism results in a more even blood-sugar level, a huge advantage for Insulin-Resistant horses. 

Chia acts as a barrier between the carbohydrates and the enzymes of the stomach. The slower metabolism results in less build-up of acid in the stomach. Horses are prone to ulcers because they constantly produce stomach acid. Chia is soothing to the gut with a mucilaginous gel. Chia provides greater efficiency in the utilization of body fluids and absorption of nutrients, helping to maintain electrolyte balance. Fluid and electrolyte imbalances occur when fluids are lost resulting from diarrhea, colic, fever, ulcers or sweating. Extracellular fluid loss occurs in these conditions. Intercellular fluid then shifts out of cells to compensate, causing abnormal distribution of electrolytes resulting in cellular malfunction. Chia seeds give extensive hydration. Hydrophilic colloids, (a watery, gelatinous, sticky substance) form the underlying elements of all living cells. Chia has the substance essential to cell life—a balanced property of giving out (nutrients) and readily taking up (debris).


Chia is low in sugar and starch—a safe supplement that compliments a balanced nutritional program for humans and horses. It is important to note that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers Chia Seed a Dietetic Nutritional Supplement. Chia is a perfect addition to the diet of IR horses. Chia is effective for horses whose lives depend upon low carbohydrate nutrition.

While the treatment of Insulin resistance is multifaceted, Chia has been proven to be a strong addition to the daily diet of IR horses and humans! (See Testimony page.) High in protein and essential oils, the hydrophilic (water absorbing) property of Chia seeds makes a soothing mucilage in the gut. Chia is a 100% natural seed, not a grain.

There are several key minerals needed for glucose metabolism that help the Insulin resistance horses. Magnesium affects insulin secretion and its action in the cells. Essential fatty acids (EFA's) are needed to help make the cell wall more sensitive to insulin. Chia is an excellent source of both Magnesium and Omega oils (EFA's) for which many IR horses are deficient.

Experts agree that low NCS diet is essential for IR horses. Limit or eliminate access to pasture (especially high-sugar pastures), feed low sugar and low starch hays, and eliminate grain, concentrates and high-sugar feeds from the diet.

Feed Chia daily to help balance blood sugar spikes, improve digestion, and provide essential fats, protein, antioxidants and magnesium to aid IR horses.


Treat each horse as an individual and seek quality practitioners to help you. Try to recognize the clinical signs as early as possible. Include Chia in your horses daily diets for effective treatment success.

For more information, please see Insulin-Resistance in Performance Horses by Madalyn Ward, DVM and the Equine Cushings group at Yahoo. Dr. Eleanor M. Kellon, VMD, is a wonderful resource for information on this subject.

DISCLAIMER: The information offered on this web site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Rather, it is intended for educational purposes only. Every horse is an individual. Check with your own veterinarian and horse professionals.