New research from Colorado State University shows that avocado and soybean extracts may help reduce the severity of cartilage damage associated with equine osteoarthritis.
"Our study was prompted by positive clinical findings in human research as well as some work in in-vitro experiments which found that [the extracts] reduce the production and release of inflammatory enzymes," says Christopher Kawcak, DVM, PhD.
At the start of their study, the Colorado researchers took radiographs and collected synovial fluid samples from a single knee of 16 young horses. Arthritis was then surgically induced in each of the knees. Afterward, eight of the horses were given unsaponifiable extracts of soybeans and avocados (ASU) mixed with molasses daily for 70 days. The remaining horses received a daily placebo treatment. Beginning two weeks after surgery, all the horses were exercised on a treadmill five days a week.
Each horse's degree of lameness was assessed weekly by a veterinarian based on clinical examinations that included flexion tests and palpation. At the end of the study, researchers took more radiographs and synovial samples to compare with the baseline tests. The treated knees were also examined by an independent researcher and scored based on evidence of cartilage damage.
The data revealed that ASU did not decrease the clinical signs of pain or lameness, but it significantly reduced the severity of damage within the joint. Specifically, Kawcak says, ASU increased production of glycosaminoglycan in articular cartilage and stimulated an "anabolic environment," which optimizes cell and tissue repair.
The fact that ASU does not minimize lameness or pain does not diminish its potential as a treatment, explains Kawcak: "ASU appears to slow the disease process. There are other effective therapies available that can be used to simultaneously help manage the pain component."
He adds that simply feeding horses avocados and soybeans will not achieve the same effect because the oils must be given in a specific ratio, and it would be unlikely the correct levels could be reached.
This article originally appeared in the November 2007 issue of EQUUS magazine.