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Organic Milk has more Healthy Fatty Acids than Regular Milk

Update Date: Dec 10, 2013 02:46 PM EST

The debate over whether or not organic products are better than nonorganic ones has continued for the past few years. Even though organic foods are perceived to be better for one's health since organic farmers do not use pesticides, whether or not they actually are healthier is not clear. In a new study out of Washington State University, researchers reported that when it comes to whole milk, organic might be the better option.

"All milk is healthy and good for people," study's lead author, Charles M. Benbrook, a research professor at Washington State University's Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, said according to the New York Times. "But organic milk is better, because it has a more favorable balance of these fatty acids."

For this study, Benbrook and his team examined 384 samples of whole milk that were produced conventionally or organically. In order for companies to label their milk as organic, their cows must be allowed to graze for a certain amount of time. The cows must also be fed grassy plants, which contribute to the high omega-3 fatty acids levels. Conventional milk comes from cows that typically eat corn, which increases the omega-6 fatty acid levels. The samples were gathered over a time span of 18 months from different areas of the country.

The researchers discovered that although the overall total fat content was the same in both types of milk, organic milk had 62 percent more omega-3 fatty acids than conventional milk. Omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in fish, are known as the healthier fatty acids. The researchers also found that organic milk had 25 percent fewer omega-6 fatty acids. Although omega-6 fatty acids are not necessarily bad, experts believe that a balance of more omega-3s as opposed to omega-6s contributes to overall health. The ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s was 2.28 in organic milk, which is lower than the 5.77 ratio found in conventional milk.

"In my judgment, the benefits from this healthy balance of fatty acids in organic milk is the most significant nutritional benefit demonstrated so far for organic food," Benbrook said according to the Seattle Times.

The study was mostly funded by Organic Valley, which sells organic dairy products. The company uses many independent processing companies throughout the nation to make their milk. The study was published in PLOS ONE.

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