A new study performed by researchers at Washington State University supports what organic food advocates have been saying for years: organic milk offers more health benefits than its conventional counterpart.
Specifically, organic milk was found to contain a better ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. The researchers compared approximately 400 samples of organic and conventional milk side by side, and found that while the conventional milk had an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 5.8, the organic milk contained a ratio of 2.3.
This ratio translates to about 62 percent more omega-3 fatty acids in the organic milk. It is established that the lower the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, the better for our bodies.
The study’s author, Washington State University research associate Donald R. Davis, explains that too many omega-6 fatty acids in one’s diet is linked to an increased risk of inflammation, heart disease, cancer and autoimmune disease. Much of the omega-6 fatty acids consumed in America come from vegetable oils found in processed foods.
Davis says, “In the 50s, 60s and 70s, it was discovered that omega-6 fatty acids decrease cholesterol levels, so it became a bandwagon… but it turns out there’s more to heart disease than just cholesterol levels, and many people think that [omega-6], though it does lower cholesterol, may increase risk for heart disease because of its effects on other mechanisms.”
Omega-3s, on the other hand, are vital for optimal health, and should ideally be higher in our bodies than omega-6s. These fatty acids are associated with heart health, brain health and reduced inflammation. They have also been linked to reduced risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
As to the reason why organic milk contains more omega-3s, Davis points to the fact that organically-raised cows graze on pastures, and the greens they eat provide them with omega-3s. The corn and soy that most conventionally-raised cows eat has the opposite effect.
The Washington State University study was performed using whole milk, and researchers caution that ratios may not be the same in lower-fat varieties. Davis states that as the fats found in whole milk are healthy fats, a growing body of research indicates that drinking full-fat milk may be better for our health than low-fat or skim.
He explains, “The evidence [that low-fat is better] is pretty weak, and there’s quite a bit of evidence that full-fat milk has beneficial properties too. Though the dietary guidelines for the US for many years have recommended reduced fat, I think that will probably change someday.”
So, while organic milk (unless you get it straight from the organic farm) may be somewhat more expensive, the reward in essential omega-3 fatty acids is well worth the cost.
-The Alternative Daily