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Organic Milk Higher In ‘Heart Healthy’ Fatty Acids

A new study has found organic milk is higher in omega-3 fatty acids than conventional milk, but not everyone considers it a health breakthrough.

milk bottles on door step

Photo: Ben Watkin (Flickr)

Milk is enjoying a moment in the news spotlight.

Organic V. Conventional

Does “organic” mean “healthier?” Past studies have largely said no, but new evidence may change that for milk.

A study published in PLOS ONE has found evidence that organic milk is higher in omega-3 fatty acids.

The nationwide study looked at 384 samples of organic and conventional milk over 18 months. Overall, organic milk contained about 62 percent more omega-3 fatty acids than conventional milk. Organic milk was also lower in omega-6 fatty acids, which are found in higher concentrations in conventional milk.

The study was funded in part by farmers associated with the Cooperative Regions of Organic Producer Pools, which markets Organic Valley. The analysis, design and study was conducted through the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University.

What’s The Difference?

Humans need both types of fatty acids, but Americans typically consume far more omega-6′s than omega-3′s — as much as 25 times more, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. We get omega-6′s largely through foods containing vegetable oils.

Cows that produce milk labeled “organic” spend some time outside grazing on grass, which is rich in omega-3′s, while conventional dairy cows are fed grain-based diets high in omega-6′s.

Claims of omega-3′s “heart-healthy” qualities are based on the fact that they can prevent coronary heart disease and slow heart disease in those already diagnosed.

Cut The Milk?

Harvard School of Public Health’s Dr. Walter Willett doesn’t see a problem with the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids, but instead questions the role of milk altogether in adult diets. He argues that adults don’t need milk at all for a healthy diet.

Some doctors also question whether saturated fats found in dairy actually raise the risk of cardiovascular issues.

The USDA recommends low-fat or nonfat dairy.

Read More:

  • More Helpful Fatty Acids Found in Organic Milk (New York Times)
  • Fresh Research Finds Organic Milk Packs In Omega-3s (NPR)
  • Got Proof? Lack of Evidence for Milk’s Benefits (Huffington Post)
Liz Leslie

Liz Leslie is a journalist based in Chicago. When she's not writing about food, she's likely eating food. Or dreaming about food.

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