Organic milk is healthier, study finds

Posted by Laura Grant on May 28, 2008
Posted in Food, Lifestyle

Need a good reason to convince you to buy organic milk? It’s just plain healthier, according a study by Newcastle University.

Cows on organic farms that are allowed to graze as nature intended are producing better quality milk that contains significantly higher beneficial fatty acids, antioxidants and vitamins than their conventional “high input” counterparts, says the university in a press release. During the summer months, when the cows are grazing on fresh grass in the fields one of the beneficial fats in particular – conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA9 – was found to be 60% higher.

“We have known for some time that what cows are fed has a big influence on milk quality,” said Gillian Butler of the Nafferton Ecological Farming Group at Newcastle University, who led the study in the release.

“What is different about this research is it clearly shows that on organic farms, letting cows graze naturally, using forage-based diet, is the most important reason for the differences in the composition between organic and conventional milk.

She said the group was now focusing its research on how to improve the nutritional composition of milk during the winter, when cows are kept indoors and fed mainly on conserved forage.

The scientists also found that farms that were not certified organic but that used very similar production methods to organic farms – “the main difference was the use of some mineral fertiliser and shorter withdrawal periods after antibiotic use” – also had significantly higher levels of nutritionally desirable fatty acids and antioxidants, which was a direct result of the extensive outdoor rearing and fresh forage intake.

CLA, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E and carotenoids have all been linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer and type II diabetes.

‘Switching to organic milk provides an alternative, natural way to increase our intake of nutritionally desirable fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants without increasing our intake of less desirable fatty acids and synthetic forms of vitamin E,’ said Butler.

She told Britain’s Times newspaper that: “My interest now is that if we can improve the quality of milk we can also improve the health qualities of butter and cheese.”

The results of the Nafferton Ecological Farming Group study into UK dairy production are published in the Journal of Science of Food and Agriculture.

Via:: Health News

Photograph: ©iStockphoto.com

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