Equine veterinary journal2002; 34(7); 705-712; doi: 10.2746/042516402776250298

Effect of nutritional antioxidant supplementation on systemic and pulmonary antioxidant status, airway inflammation and lung function in heaves-affected horses.

Abstract: An oxidant/antioxidant imbalance in favour of oxidants has been identified as playing a decisive role in the pathogenesis of chronic inflammatory airway diseases. Nutritional antioxidant supplementation might reduce oxidative damage by enhancement of the antioxidant defence, thereby modulating inflammatory processes. In a placebo-controlled, blind study, it was tested whether a dietary antioxidant supplement administered for 4 weeks would improve lung function and reduce airway inflammation in heaves-affected horses. Eight horses in clinical remission of heaves were investigated at rest and after a standardised exercise test before and after treatment with an antioxidant supplement (consisting of a mixture of natural antioxidants including vitamins E and C and selenium from a variety of sources) or placebo (oatfeed pellets without additive). Pulmonary function and exercise tolerance were monitored; systemic and pulmonary lining fluid uric acid, glutathione and 8-epi-PGF(2alpha) were analysed, and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) cytology and inflammatory scoring of the airways were performed. The antioxidant treatment significantly improved exercise tolerance and significantly reduced endoscopic inflammatory score. Plasma uric acid concentrations were significantly reduced, suggesting downregulation of the xanthine-dehydrogenase and xanthine-oxydase pathway. Haemolysate glutathione showed a nonsignificant trend to increase, while plasma 8-epi-PGF(2alpha) remained unchanged. Pulmonary markers and BAL cytology were not significantly affected by antioxidant supplementation. The present study suggests that the antioxidant supplement tested modulated oxidant/antioxidant balance and airway inflammation of heaves-affected horses.
Publication Date: 2002-11-29 PubMed ID: 12455842DOI: 10.2746/042516402776250298Google Scholar: Lookup
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  • Clinical Trial
  • Journal Article
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support
  • Non-U.S. Gov't


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This study examines how nutritional antioxidant supplementation could improve lung function and decrease airway inflammation in horses affected by a chronic respiratory disease known as heaves. The results suggested that the antioxidant supplement tested affected the balance between oxidants and antioxidants, and decreased airway inflammation in these horses.

Details of the Research

  • The teams studied if dietary antioxidant supplements over a span of 4 weeks could improve lung function and reduce airway inflammation in horses affected by heaves- a chronic respiratory disease. It is well-known that an imbalance of oxidant/antioxidant is a decisive factor in the pathogenesis of chronic inflammatory airway diseases. Antioxidant supplementation could potentially decrease oxidative damage by enhancing the antioxidant defense system and modulating inflammatory processes..
  • The study used an approach that was placebo-controlled and blind, meaning neither the researchers administering the treatment nor the subjects knew what treatment they were receiving to avoid any placebo effect. The experimental group received antioxidant supplements, which contained a combination of natural antioxidants like vitamins E and C and selenium from various sources. The control group, on the other hand, was administered with oatfeed pellets devoid of additives.
  • Eight horses were chosen for the experiment, all of whom were clinically in remission from heaves. The horses were examined at rest and post standardized exercise sessions before and after the treatment.

The Measurements and Results

  • Various markers were observed to monitor the effects of the treatment. The investigators considered pulmonary function, exercise tolerance, systemic and pulmonary lining fluid uric acid, glutathione, and 8-epi-PGF(2alpha). In addition, they also conducted bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL), which is a diagnostic test of the lower respiratory tract, and inflammatory scoring of the airways.
  • The results of the antioxidant treatment were significantly positive. It improved the exercise tolerance in horses and also reduced the endoscopic inflammatory score, which indicates a reduced level of airway inflammation.
  • The study also observed a significant reduction in the concentration of plasma uric acid which indicates a downregulation of the xanthine-dehydrogenase and xanthine-oxydase pathway – both responsible for oxidation of uric acid.
  • Other markers such as haemolysate glutathione showed a trend towards an increase, although it was not statistically significant. Plasma 8-epi-PGF(2alpha) remained ultimately unchanged. The bronchoalveolar lavage cytology and pulmonary markers did not exhibit any significant deviations due to the antioxidant supplementation.
  • In conclusion, the antioxidant supplement successfully affected the oxidant/antioxidant balance and mitigated the airway inflammation in horses affected by heaves.

Cite This Article

Kirschvink N, Fiu00e9vez L, Bougnet V, Art T, Degand G, Smith N, Marlin D, Roberts C, Harris P, Lekeux P. (2002). Effect of nutritional antioxidant supplementation on systemic and pulmonary antioxidant status, airway inflammation and lung function in heaves-affected horses. Equine Vet J, 34(7), 705-712. https://doi.org/10.2746/042516402776250298


ISSN: 0425-1644
NlmUniqueID: 0173320
Country: United States
Language: English
Volume: 34
Issue: 7
Pages: 705-712

Researcher Affiliations

Kirschvink, N
  • Laboratory for Functional Investigation, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Liu00e8ge, Belgium.
Fiu00e9vez, L
    Bougnet, V
      Art, T
        Degand, G
          Smith, N
            Marlin, D
              Roberts, C
                Harris, P
                  Lekeux, P

                    MeSH Terms

                    • Animals
                    • Antioxidants / administration & dosage
                    • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
                    • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / chemistry
                    • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / cytology
                    • Dietary Supplements
                    • Dinoprost / analogs & derivatives
                    • Exercise Test / veterinary
                    • F2-Isoprostanes / blood
                    • Female
                    • Glutathione / blood
                    • Horse Diseases / drug therapy
                    • Horse Diseases / immunology
                    • Horse Diseases / physiopathology
                    • Horses
                    • Inflammation / drug therapy
                    • Inflammation / immunology
                    • Inflammation / veterinary
                    • Male
                    • Oxidation-Reduction
                    • Oxidative Stress
                    • Physical Conditioning, Animal / physiology
                    • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / drug therapy
                    • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / immunology
                    • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / veterinary
                    • Respiratory Function Tests / veterinary
                    • Uric Acid / blood


                    This article has been cited 4 times.
                    1. Miller AB, Harris PA, Barker VD, Adams AA. Short-term transport stress and supplementation alter immune function in aged horses.. PLoS One 2021;16(8):e0254139.
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                    2. Bullone M, Lavoie JP. The Contribution of Oxidative Stress and Inflamm-Aging in Human and Equine Asthma.. Int J Mol Sci 2017 Dec 5;18(12).
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                    3. Santangelo B, Robin A, Simpson K, Potier J, Guichardant M, Portier K. The Modification and Performance of a Large Animal Anesthesia Machine (Tafonius(u00ae)) in Order to Deliver Xenon to a Horse.. Front Vet Sci 2017;4:162.
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                    4. Matera MG, Calzetta L, Peli A, Scagliarini A, Matera C, Cazzola M. Immune sensitization of equine bronchus: glutathione, IL-1beta expression and tissue responsiveness.. Respir Res 2005 Sep 15;6(1):104.
                      doi: 10.1186/1465-9921-6-104pubmed: 16164745google scholar: lookup