Cows grazing
Drinking organic milk may help keep the heart healthier than the conventional milk, a new study says.Jsome1/Flickr

Drinking organic milk may help keep the heart healthier than the conventional milk, a new study has pointed out.

Researchers from the Washington State University in the US found that a healthy balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in organic milk facilitated this occurrence.  

For the study, Dr Charles Benbrook and team collected 400 samples of organic and conventional milk and measured levels of various fatty acids in them. They were surprised to find that organic milk contained a healthier ratio of the two fatty acids-omega-6 and omega-3- than the conventional milk. Organic milk had an average omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio of 2.3, compared to the 5.8 ratio in the conventional milk.

Omega-3 fatty acids are not produced naturally in the body. Researchers pointed out that grazing on grass, involved in organic dairy farming helped achieve these higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids. On the other hand, cows that are fed corn produced milk high in omega-6 fatty acids, The New York Times reported.  

The findings are important as a diet high in omega-6 fatty acid is known to pose risk to the heart. Previous studies have linked omega-6 fats to heart disease, and have also shown how a healthy ratio of the two fats can protect the heart.  Additionally, a higher ratio of omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 has been linked to cancer, autoimmune disease and excessive inflammation.

To prove the role of organic milk in achieving a healthy ratio of the two fatty acids, researchers placed adult women on a diet with an omega-6 to omega 3 ratio of 11.3. They found that switching from the habit of consuming the conventional dairy products three times daily to taking the full-fat organic dairy products 4.5 times daily, plus avoiding foods high in omega-6 fatty acids helped women to achieve a healthier ratio of the fatty acids, i.e. 2.3.

"All milk is healthy and good for people," Benbrook, the lead author of the study, told The New York Times, "but organic milk is better, because it has a more favorable balance of these fatty acids."

Experts supported the findings.  "One aspect of organic production methods is that cows must be allowed to graze on grass. The omega ratios reflect grass feeding. The study is further evidence that the organic rules are doing what they are supposed to be doing," Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition and public health at New York University, told Livescience.

Surprisingly, the organic milk was found providing more fatty acids than fish, which is considered to be one of the natural sources high in these fatty acids. "We were surprised to find that recommended intakes of full-fat milk products supply far more of the major omega-3 fatty acid, ALA, than recommended servings of fish," co-author Donald R. Davis, said in a statement. 

The study has been reported in the online issue of PLOS ONE.