Whole organic milk contains some 62 percent more omega-3 fatty acids than conventional milk, according to new research. Getting more of these fats – which are more prevalent in the grass fed to cows producing organic milk than in the corn that makes up the diet of conventionally fed cows – may help lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, and fight diabetes. Organic milk also contained 25 percent less of the omega-6 fatty acids, a fat that is overly available in the western diet and may have deleterious effects when too much of this and too little of the omega-3s are consumed.
The researchers say that organic whole milk's healthier ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s is enough to offer real health benefits when consumed consistently. "A high intake of full-fat organic dairy products – 4.5 servings instead of [the USDA-recommended] 3 servings – would reduce a person's omega-6 to omega-3 ratio significantly," says lead study author Charles Benbrook, of the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University. "Combine this with limiting foods very high in omega-6 fatty acids, such as deep-fried foods and condiments made with soybean or corn oil, and you can favorably alter your long-term health trajectory."
Benbrook says whole, rather than two percent or one percent organic milk, may also have a better omega profile. "The shift in the balance of fatty acids is greatest in whole milk," he says. "It's about 40 percent less in 2 percent milk and two-thirds less in 1 percent." There's no difference in fatty acids between organic skim milk and conventional skim milk, he adds, because skim contains zero milk fat.