COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Chocolate may be a harmless treat for humans, but it could land a competitive racehorse into trouble with officials.
Researchers at Ohio State University found that three horses fed a vending-pack of M&Ms® chocolate-coated peanuts every day for eight days showed detectable concentrations of the stimulants caffeine and theobromine -- substances that are banned for horses that compete in races.
We would advise that trainers avoid feeding chocolate to racehorses, said Richard Sams, professor of veterinary medicine at Ohio State.
Caffeine and theobromine are banned for racehorses because they have been thought to give horses a competitive edge in races. Trainers whose horses test positive for these substances can lose their winnings and have their horse disqualified.
However, Sams said he doubts the amounts of caffeine and theobromine
found in the horses he tested would have given the
animals a real advantage over other horses.
Sams began the research, which was published recently in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology, after a Florida racehorse trainer sent a horses urine sample to Ohio State for testing when another lab found caffeine in the sample. Sams said the trainer questioned if the M&Ms® he fed the horse caused the positive findings.
The chocolate in a vending machine bag of peanut M&Ms® contains six milligrams of caffeine and about 50 milligrams of theobromine. Both substances stay in a horses system longer than a humans.
This study helped us learn the way horses eliminate drugs, and by extension the way all animals eliminate drugs, Sams said.
While caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant in horses, as it is in humans, it would take several grams of caffeine to affect the performance of a 1,000-pound racehorse, according to Sams.