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[RC] sunflower seeds vs oil - Susan E. Garlinghouse, DVM



Having a bit of a debate with some folks about the merits of feeding striated sunflower seed as a fat source.


Their argument : it's a good source of fat and good for coat, weight, feet, etc.


My argument : any oil does that, but sunflower oil is more bio-available, easier to measure and you don't have the problems of mould.


Can anyone with some info pretty please chime in. 




No, not just “any” oil will necessarily improve skin/coat condition.  In large part, it’s a function of the fatty acid components within the oil.  Oil sources with a higher component of omega-6s, and omega-3s have much more beneficial effect than those with saturated fatty acids (ie, animal source fats), etc.


I don’t have the exact numbers in front of me, but if memory serves, sunflower seeds have a “reasonable” amount of omega-3s, although not nearly as high as flax seed sources.  Sunflower also has a fair amount of omega-6s, which aren’t quite as good as omega-3s, and both of which have to be in a correct ratio to derive full benefit---but in any event, it’s a good source of both fatty acids that benefit skin, coat and hooves (which of course, are just a modified hair protein, anyway).  I certainly don’t mind sunflower seeds being fed whole to a horse with decent dentition, they seem to do just fine.  Plus, not disrupting the seed generally means the oils are less likely to be oxidized, and therefore of more biologic value.  Once the oils have been exposed to air, heat, light through processing, the omega acids have lost a large majority of their fatty acid properties, in which case they are of no more benefit than “any” oil.  Therefore, heat-processed sunflower oil from the grocery store has no more benefit than bacon grease, corn oil, canola oil or any other fat.  If the source is cold-pressed sunflower oil, then the benefits are equivalent to those derived by feeding whole sunflower seeds.  If you start with cold-pressed sunflower oil, and then let it get exposed to light, heat and/or air, then it’ll oxidize within a few days, and you’re back to no better than “any” oil.


If you’re looking for just calories to maintain weight, there’s no benefits either way to any fat source.  The calorie content is the same gram for gram.


Differences in bioavailability, not to any significant extent.  Animal fat sources are about 95% digestible, vegetable fat sources are about 98%.  Not enough difference to quibble about.  Any differences in oils are going to be due to specific fatty acid components, which differ greatly.


Hope this clarifies things.


Susan Garlinghouse, DVM, MS (Clinical Nutrition)




From: ridecamp-owner@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ridecamp-owner@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Tracey Lomax
Sent: Wednesday, August 01, 2007 12:13 PM
To: ridecamp@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [RC] FW: Sunflower seed v sunflower oil