Is organic milk the best choice for nutrition and health? Recent studies say so. Organic milk has been found to contain the right balance of essential fatty acids the human body needs for heart and brain health. Proponents say four servings a day is appropriate.
A study recently published by Charles Benbrook, et al, stated that Western diets have skewed the average body intake of fatty acids far away from the healthy balance they should have. While the Omega 3 fatty acid (the one in fish oil) should be high, instead Western diets show a dramatic decrease of Omega 3, and an unhealthy increase of Omega 6.
Resulting ω-6/ω-3 intake ratios have risen to nutritionally undesirable levels, generally 10 to 15, compared to a possible optimal ratio near 2.3. Averaged over 12 months, organic milk contained 25% less ω-6 fatty acids and 62% more ω-3 fatty acids than conventional milk, yielding a 2.5-fold higher ω-6/ω-3 ratio in conventional compared to organic milk (5.77 vs. 2.28). All individual ω-3 fatty acid concentrations were higher in organic milk, as well as other essential ingredients a healthy body needs.
Results of similar studies were recently published in The New York Times, too. The study, first published in PLOS One, found that this “is the most clear-cut instance of an organic food’s offering a nutritional advantage over its conventional counterpart.”
Drinking whole organic milk “will certainly lessen the risk factor for cardiovascular disease,” said Benbrook, a research professor at Washington State University’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources.
“All milk is healthy and good for people,” he continued, “but organic milk is better, because it has a more favorable balance of these fatty acids”, omega-3, typically found in fish and flax seed, versus omega-6, which is abundant in many fried foods like potato chips.
Under government requirements for organic labeling, dairy cows must spend a certain amount of the time in the pasture, eating grassy plants high in omega-3s; conventional milk comes from cows that are mostly fed corn, which is high in omega-6s. Nonorganic cows that graze in pastures also produce milk with greater amounts of omega-3s.
The research was largely funded by Organic Valley, a farm cooperative that sells organic dairy products. But experts not connected with the study said the findings were credible — though they noted that the role of milk in a healthy diet and the influence of fatty acids in preventing or causing cardiovascular disease are far from settled.
The implication for child health is obvious. During infancy, breast milk is the perfect food for babies. If switched to formula, omega 3 in the form of DHA, is added. But once toddlers switch to milk, the trend has been to pace them on reduced fat milk. Recently, research has found that whole milk, particularly organic milk, is necessary to maintain the desired omega 3 balance young brains need to maintain and enhance learning potential. The result can be compared to dumbing down children before they have a chance to explore their potential learning capabilities.
Parents should consult their child’s health care professional and ask what milk is right for each child’s particular needs. Omega 3 supplements are available for purchase in child strengths. Overall, a diet high in Omega 3 fatty acids will help every child achieve and maintain optimum brain health.
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