Consumers who want to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease and improve their immunity should switch to organic milk and meat products, following the release of new research suggesting that organic animal products are better for you than the standard varieties.
The new paper, published in the British Journal of Nutrition this week, recommends that people who abandon conventional milk and meats to take up the organic brands may benefit from an increased intake of nutritionally important fatty acids.
A literature review of over 250 studies on organic milk and meat, conducted by researchers at the UK’s Newcastle University, shows that organic milk and meat contains around 50 per cent more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids than conventionally produced products.
The study also found that organic meat, farmed without the use of synthetic chemicals or genetically modified components, had slightly lower concentrations of two saturated fats (myristic and palmitic acid), which linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Professor of Food and Human Nutrition at Newcastle University, Chris Seal, explains that omega-3s are linked to reductions in cardiovascular disease, improved neurological development and function, and better immune function.
"But getting enough in our diet is difficult,” says Prof Seal.
“Our study suggests that switching to organic would go some way towards improving intakes of these important nutrients."
Prof Seal explains that the switch from conventional to organic would raise a person’s omega-3 fat intake without increasing kilojoules and undesirable saturated fat.
For example, he adds, half a litre of organic full fat milk provides an estimated 16 per cent of the recommended daily intake of very long-chain omega-3, while conventional milk provides 11 per cent.
Half a litre of organic full fat milk provides an estimated 16 per cent of the recommended daily intake of very long-chain omega-3, while conventional milk provides 11 per cent.
The study explains the gap in the nutritional quality of organic and non-organic animal products is due to the food production methods of organic milk and meats, like outdoor-rearing and grass-feeding animals.
However, Professor of food chain nutrition at the University of Reading, Ian Givens, believes that the differences in the two food types mean little.
“You get the same kind of changes in food composition if non-organic animals are fed forage-rich diets too,” says Prof Givens.
“It’s the choice of feed, not the organic farming method, which makes the difference.”
The research shows that organic milk and meat also have slightly higher concentrations of iron, vitamin E and some carotenoids than the non-organic milk and meat.
However, the findings reveal that non-organic milk contained almost twice as much of the essential mineral iodine and selenium as organic.
“The lower iodine and selenium content of organic milk has been recognised before, and since milk is the greatest single source of dietary iodine, the lower value in organic milk needs to be recognised,” says Prof Givens.
“This is especially true for pregnant women, for whom iodine is a critical nutrient to ensure the healthy development of their baby.”
The study’s authors highlight that only a small number of studies have been carried out comparing organic and non-organic meat, and more research is needed to produce more conclusive results.
The Australian organic food industry is growing 15 per cent each year and was worth an estimated $1.72 billion in 2014, according to an Australian Organic Market Report.