A new study reveals that when it comes to milk, organic whole milk may be your best bet. This is good news for me since that is my dairy drink of choice. It’s also exciting for the organic movement as this is a clear example of the organic advantage when it comes to nutrition. There are a lot of quasi-scientific studies that support organic health claims (e.g. sample sizes are too small, methodology is questionable, findings are inconclusive), but this study seems to be solid across the board.
Full disclosure: the study was funded by Organic Valley, a national organic dairy co-op. They certainly had a vested interest in the final outcome. Nonetheless the study has received the stamp approval of the National Institute of Health acknowledging its validity. Still, the motivation was curiosity. “Organics have lacked a science base,” George Siemon, CEO of Organic Valley, said. “I just wanted to know.” So they set up and funded a study to find out.
The study compared nearly 400 samples of conventional and organic whole milk. The study took place over an 18-month span and sampled milk across the nation. Milk samples were compared by region and overall. The key findings surrounded the fatty acids.
There are two main fatty acids – omega-3s and omega-6s. Omega-3s are found mostly in fish and flax while omega-6s are found in nuts and vegetable oils. Both omega-3s and omega-6s are necessary for our bodies to function properly. Our western processed diet is extremely high in omega-6s (think corn and canola oil) while omega-3s are sorely lacking.
The jury is still out as far as how this imbalance of omega-3s and omega-6s affects our bodies. Some claim it doesn’t matter at all while others claim the excess omega-6s are responsible for everything from arthritis to cancer. While there isn’t a lot of disagreement on omega-6s, most scientists and health professionals agree we could all do with more omega-3s in our diets.
Enter organic whole milk.
Conventional dairy cows are raised on corn. Organic dairy cows are raised on pasture. Corn contains a lot of omega-6s and this shows up in the milk. The ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s in conventional milk is 5.77:1 while the ratio in organic milk is 2.28:1. Milk from grass-fed,non-organic certified cows yielded results similar to those of the organic milk.
You are what you eat…eats.
If you are looking to incorporate more omega-3s into your diet, and you should be looking to do that, consider switching to organic whole milk. It’s good for you and, let’s be honest, it just tastes better.
- Organic Milk High in Helpful Fatty Acids, Study Finds (nytimes.com)
- Organic milk is better for your heart (grist.org)
- Organic whole milk provides best heart-health benefits, study says (latimes.com)
- Yep, organic milk really is better for you than regular milk (nbcnews.com)
- Got milk? Study says you should opt for organic over regular (cbsnews.com)
- Is Organic Milk Better for You? It Might Be (businessweek.com)