It could be the drink for all seasons. Organic cows milk could provide heart healthy benefits other kinds can’t.
Organic milk had higher levels of nutritionally beneficial fatty acids compared with conventional milk regardless of the time of year or weather conditions, according to a new study in the Journal of Dairy Science.
Scientists from Newcastle University in England say wetter, cooler summers could be having a nutritionally detrimental effect on regular milk.
Researchers found ordinary milk collected during a particularly poor UK summer and the following winter had significantly higher saturated fat content and far less beneficial fatty acids than in a year with a more ‘normal’ weather pattern.
This is important for pregnant mothers and infants to have beneficial fatty acids, like Omega-3 fatty acids, because they have been found to be a critical component for both neurological and early visual development of the baby. Approximately 60 percent of the brain composed of lipids, these types of compounds make up almost 20 percent of the total brain’s fatty acids. Recently published research confirmed adding these nutrients to the diet of pregnant women can definitely have a positive effect on visual and cognitive function of the child, with effects measurable up to the age of four.
Omega-3 fatty acids may also help fight pre-eclampsia, which complicates approximately 5 to 10 percent of all pregnancies, is a leading contributor to maternal mortality, preterm delivery, fetal growth retardation, and perinatal mortality. Omega-3 fatty acids may also lower the risk of post-partum depression.
One reason organic milk may have had higher levels of healthy fatty acids is because organic dairying relies on forage, especially grazing, and does not use nitrogen fertilizer which in turns allows the growth of red and white clover. This clover has been shown to alter the fatty acid intake and composition of milk for the better.
“Low levels of omega-3 and polyunsaturated fatty acids were discovered in some non-organic brands, which are indicative of a diet low in fresh grass. These samples also showed evidence of the cows being supplemented with a saturated fat product derived from palm oil.”, said lead researcher Gillian Butler.
While protein, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and some mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids in milk are considered beneficial, saturated fatty acids are believed to have a negative effect on human health.
“We’re always being told to cut down on the saturated fat we consume and switching to organic milk and dairy products provides a natural way to increase our intake of nutritionally desirable fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants without increasing our intake of less desirable fatty acids,” said Butler. “By choosing organic milk you can cut saturated fats by 30-50 percent and still get the same intake of beneficial fatty acids, as the omega-3 levels are higher but omega-6 is not, which helps to improve the crucial ratio between the two.”
Researchers concluded organic brands of milk available in supermarkets are higher in these beneficial fatty acids such as CLA and omega-3 fatty acids in summer (as in their previous research) and winter (where previous research showed that the difference in the winter was not as noticeable).
There was also greater consistency between organic suppliers, whereas conventional milk brands varied in quality.
“If these weather patterns continue, both forage and dairy management will have to adapt to maintain current milk quality,” said Mrs Butler. “The higher levels of beneficial fats in organic milk would more than compensate for the depression brought about by relatively poor weather conditions in the wet year.”
The group, part of the University’s Nafferton Ecological Farming Group and its Human Nutrition Centre, looked at the quality of milk in supermarkets across North East England at varying times of year over a two-year period.
Omega-3s are also found in soybean and canola oils, flaxseed, flaxseed oil, walnuts, and leafy green vegetables, and fish. Fatty fish is the main source of omega-3 fatty acids. A good target for omega-3s is 1 to 2 grams daily. Remember though that some fishes contain significant amounts of mercury and may be harmful if eaten in excess. The FDA recommends eating less than six ounces weekly because of mercury content. Canned light tuna, crab, pollock, flounder, oysters, and shrimp are relatively low in mercury and provide quite good levels of omega-3s in a 6-7 ounce serving.
The American Heart Association says the buildup of fatty plaque in arteries could begin in childhood and progress slowly into adulthood – often leading to coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.
Coronary heart disease causes 425,425 deaths each year.An estimated 17.6 million (7.9 percent) U.S. adults have coronary heart disease.. Many of these adults have children who may have coronary heart disease risk factors that need attention.
In a 2004 survey, Rhode Island had close to 40,000 women over age 45 diagnosed with heart disease.
Women and Infants Hospital inProvidence offers these general guidelines for Reducing Your Risk Heart Disease:
- If you smoke, quit.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet
- Low in saturated fat and cholesterol
- Rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables
- Exercise regularly
- Take your medications as directed
- Lose weight if you are overweight or obese
- Drink alcohol only in moderation – One or fewer alcoholic beverages per day for women, two or fewer alcoholic beverages per day for men
- Take medication as directed
Simmons Farm, Middletown