Those who claim low fat milk is the healthiest are in for a surprise. Recent study from Washington State University over an 18-month period proved that whole fat, organic milk is the best choice for cardiovascular disease patients and those willing to take on a healthy lifestyle.
Researchers from the University analyzed over 400 samples of organic and traditional milk and published the findings in the journal PLoS ONE. Traditional milk had higher levels of omega-6 fatty acids as opposed to high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the organic brand. Back in the 50s-70s, omega-6 fatty acids were sought as miraculous cholesterol lowering fatty acids.
Later on, though, their negative health effects surpassed their benefits. Despite their cholesterol-lowering mechanisms, omega-6 fatty acids increased the probability of cardiovascular diseases. This occurs because the excess of omega-6 fatty acids in the body cause their conversion to omega-6 eicosanoids which bind to diverse receptors found in several body tissues. Excessive omega-6 fats tends to promote too much inflammation which in turn contributes to many degenerative diseases like atherosclerosis, arthritis, cardiovascular diseases, thrombosis, immune-inflammatory processes, and tumor proliferation especially breast cancer and prostate cancer.
On the other hand, omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids and vital for body metabolism. These long chain, polyunsaturated fatty acids improve appetite, weight, and quality of life. For people with coronary heart diseases, omega-3 fatty acids are essentially important in stimulating blood circulation, increasing the breakdown of fibrin – blood clotting protein- and reducing blood pressure.
So according to this study, we need to be taking in more omega-3s and less omega-6s, in other words, skip the conventional milk and gulp down a glass of the organic brand.
Through the study, researchers came to an even more surprising discovery. Donald R. Davis, study author and Washington State University professor claimed that as fat percentage in milk decreases, its health benefits also decrease (less percent of omega-3 fatty acids):
“The evidence (that low-fat is better) is pretty weak, and there’s quite a bit of evidence that full-fat milk has beneficial properties too. Though the dietary guidelines for the U.S. for many years have recommended reduced fat, I think that will probably change some day.”
Even with the health benefits, consumers might find it difficult to shift to organic milk. Sales of organic milk have increased 15% from 2011 to 2012. Organic milk accounts for about 4% of total fluid milk consumption. However, grocery stores don’t have that much stock to supply dairy product lovers with. The tight supply is a result of a raise in the organic dairy farmers’ costs while they receive the same price for their products.
Another important reason for the high cost of organic milk is the natural cycle by which its production takes place. Cows are always left out in out in lush, green fields. Cows graze on fresh grass and clover pastures. Herbicides are strictly forbidden. Organic farms use crop rotation, active habitat management, careful timings of cultivations and seed selection to maintain biodiversity.
The recent research thus determined that whole fat, organic milk has about 62% more omega-3 fatty acids than conventional milk and is therefore healthier.
Dairy farmers of the Cooperative Regions of Organic Producer Pools, helped fund the study but was not involved in its design or analysis.
By: Jaylan Salah