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Food, Health, and Eco-news
Is Organic Food Really More Nutritious?
Two large new studies suggests the answer is “yes”, even when it comes to meats and dairy 05/04/2016 By Craig Weatherby
Looking to get biggest nutritional bang for your meat and dairy buck?

Two extensive new studies suggest that it makes sense to choose organic.

A British-European team reviewed 263 studies that compared the nutritional content of organic versus conventional milk and meat.

They found clear advantages for organic milk and meat … especially in terms of omega 3 fatty acids, the balance between omega-3s and omega 6 fatty acids, and certain antioxidants.

This matters because Americans need all the omega-3s and antioxidants they can get, and fewer omega-6s.

American diets lack omega-3s
Several years ago, Harvard University researchers came to an alarming conclusion.

And the new British-European findings show that switching to organic meat and milk would significantly raise people's omega-3 intakes.

As Professor Chris Seal of Newcastle University said, "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. Our study suggests that switching to organic would go some way towards improving intakes of these important nutrients.”

Organic milk's superior nutrient profile
The new review found that organic milk offers a superior fat and antioxidant profile:
  • Lower (healthier) omega-6/omega-3 ratio
  • More short-chain and long-chain omega-3s
  • Lower levels of saturated fats (myristic and palmitic acid)
  • 40 percent more CLA – a generally beneficial fatty acid
  • Higher levels of antioxidant vitamin E and carotenoids (e.g., beta-carotene)
On average, one-half liter (17 ounces) of organic whole milk provides an estimated 16% (39 mg) of the recommended, daily intake (250 mg) of the long-chain omega-3s our bodies actually need – EPA, DPA, and DHA – while conventional milk provides 11% (25 mg).

In addition, the scientists found higher levels of the short-chain, plant-source omega 3 known as ALA, which our bodies convert into vital long-chain omega-3s.

They also found lower levels of the short-chain, plant source omega-6 fat known as LA, which competes with dietary omega-3 ALA for conversion into the long-chain forms of each family of fatty acids.

This combination of higher omega-3 ALA levels and lower omega-6 LA levels in organic milk means that – compared with conventional milk – more of the omega-3 ALA in organic milk gets converted into the long-chain omega-3s we actually need.

The study attributed the superior fat profiles of organic milk to the ample outdoor grazing and relatively low levels of grain-based feed prescribed by organic farming standards.

In addition, as the study's authors said, several mother-child studies link organic milk, dairy products, and vegetables to a reduced risk of certain allergies and autoimmune diseases in babies, such as eczema.

Organic meat found superior as well
Surprisingly, there have been no systematic reviews comparing the nutrient content of organic and conventionally produced meat.

So in one of their two studies, the British-European team analyzed 67 studies comparing the composition of organic and non-organic meat products.

And compared with conventional meats, organic meats looked better:
  • Similar levels of saturated fats
  • 23% more total polyunsaturated fats
  • 47% more omega-3 polyunsaturated fats
  • Lower ratio of omega-6 to omega 3 polyunsaturated fats
Organic meats' advantage in omega-3s matters because, as the authors wrote, "For the majority of North American and European consumers, meat is the main dietary source for long-chain omega-3s, supplying up to an estimated 50% of the recommended adequate intake.”

Prior evidence in favor of organic foods
Two years ago, the same team compared the nutritional composition of organic and conventionally-grown crops.

That analysis found that organic crops are up to 60 percent higher in a number of key antioxidants and contained less of the toxic metal cadmium … see Organic Crops Offer More Antioxidants.

And we recommend these prior reports from our news archive:

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