Health bloggers and foodies alike are often promoting a diet based on organic produce. But do the health claims around organic milk really stack up? In this post, I will be looking at the most recent research and examining whether organic milk really is better for you.
So, is organic milk really better for you? In a word, yes. Now if you’re happy to take my word for it you can stop reading here and go about your day! Otherwise, let me explain in a bit more detail ….
A recent study found that organic milk contains higher levels of Omega 3 as opposed to non-organic meat. Further, a meta analysis which looked at 196 papers on milk and 67 on meat from all over the world found, “clear differences between organic and conventional milk and meat, especially in terms of fatty acid composition, and the concentrations of certain essential minerals and antioxidants.” This is likely due to the fact that organic cattle are fed a diet that is predominantly grass based, rather than grain based.
When cows are fed grains (which are not their natural diet) this changes the fat profile of the meat and makes it more Omega 6 dominant. So it seems pretty clear that organic milk, and indeed milk, has a superior fatty acid profile, in particular, because of the increased levels of Omega 3.
Why Omega 3 Matters
But why is this important?
Chris Seal, Professor of Food and Human Nutrition at Newcastle University explains: “Omega-3s are linked to reductions in cardiovascular disease, improved neurological development and function, and better immune function. Western European diets are recognised as being too low in these fatty acids and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommends we should double our intake. But getting enough in our diet is difficult. Our study suggests that switching to organic would go some way towards improving intakes of these important nutrients.”
It’s not that Omega 3 levels are important per se, it’s actually the balance between Omega 3 and Omega 6 that matters.
Western diets have become increasingly Omega 6 dominant and that’s an issue because, as this study found, “Excessive amounts of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and a very high omega-6/omega-3 ratio, as is found in today’s Western diets, promote the pathogenesis of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, whereas increased levels of omega-3 PUFA (a low omega-6/omega-3 ratio) exert suppressive effects”.
Although switching from non-organic to organic dairy alone is unlikely be enough to redress this imbalance, it’s certainly a start.