There are many reasons to buy organic dairy—the animals’ quality of life, the environmental impact, and the unforeseen health consequences of consuming food from antibiotic- and hormone-treated animals, to name a few. And now a recent study suggests that switching from conventional to organic dairy could also have a direct positive impact on cardiovascular health.
The difference derives from the types of omega fats produced by cows fed on grass—as stipulated by organic guidelines—compared to those fed corn. Omega fats come in two major forms—omega-6 and omega-3—and a dietary ratio of 2.3 omega-6 fats to one omega-3 is considered optimal. However, that ratio has become increasingly skewed toward omega-6 fats, and is typically around 10–15 to one in the modern Western diet. Such elevated levels of omega-6 fats make the blood more likely to clot, and have been linked to heart disease, stroke, and even ADHD.
Researchers at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University, compared the nutritional content of milk samples from conventional and organic producers around the United States, which were collected once a month for 18 months. They found that although total fat levels were comparable, the organic milk contained 62% more omega-3 fats and 25% less omega-6 fats compared to conventional milk. The study authors estimate that switching from conventional to full-fat organic dairy products could go a long way toward bringing our ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats closer to the target of 2.3 to one.
So the next time you’re in the dairy aisle, remember that choosing milk from “happy cows” also leads to a happy heart.
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(Source: PLoS One, 2013 Dec 9;8(12):e82429. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0082429.)
Photo: Flickr/ USDAgov.