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Daily News Blog

17
Feb

Organic Dairy and Meat Higher in Essential Nutrients

(Beyond Pesticides, February 17, 2016) After reviewing a prolific scientific database, researchers find that organic meat and milk have 50 percent more important nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids that are important in human nutrition. Organic meat has slightly lower concentrations of saturated fats, while organic milk contains 40 percent more linoleic acid, and carries slightly higher concentrations of iron, vitamin E and some carotenoids. While this new information certainly adds to the debate over the benefits of organic, it strengthens the argument that there is a nutritional advantage to eating organic that complements the  environmental benefit of    avoiding toxic pesticide use.

The new findings, reported in two studies by scientists from the United Kingdom, Poland, Norway, Italy, Denmark, Switzerland, Greece and Turkey, “  Higher PUFA and omega-3 PUFA, CLA, a-tocopherol and iron, but lower iodine and selenium concentrations in organic milk: A Systematic Literature Review and Meta- and Redundancy Analyses” and “Composition differences between organic and conventional meat; a systematic literature review and meta-analysis,” both published in the British Journal of Nutrition, compare the compositional differences between organic and conventional (non-organic) milk and dairy, as well as organic and conventional meat.   The researchers reviewed 196 research studies of milk and 67 papers on meat to identify clear differences between organic and conventional milk and meat, in terms of fatty acid composition, and in the concentrations of certain minerals and anti-oxidants. The reviews include several studies of mothers and children and the consequences of organic milk and dairy consumption.

coworganicOrganic milk, according to the findings, contains substantially more omega-3 fatty acids, including in excess of 50% more nutritionally desirable  very long chain omega-3 fatty acids  EPA, DPA and DHA. The results also show significantly higher levels of polyunsaturated fat (PUFA), conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), vitamin E (a-tocopherol), and iron, but a lower ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fat, and lower levels of selenium and iodine in organic milk. Additionally, the researchers point out the more desirable fat profiles in organic milk are closely linked to outdoor grazing and low concentrate feeding in dairy diets, as prescribed by organic farming standards. Interestingly, some of the studies reviewed show that the use of traditional breeds and low milking frequency also contribute to milk quality differences. Similarly, for organic meat, there are  significantly higher levels of polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) and omega-6 fatty acids, but lower concentrations of mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and a lower omega-6/omega-3 fat ratio.

“Several of these differences stem from organic livestock production and are brought about by differences in production intensity, with outdoor-reared, grass-fed animals producing milk and meat that is consistently higher in desirable fatty acids, such as the omega-3s, and lower in fatty acids that can promote heart disease and other chronic diseases,” said Professor Carlo Leifert, PhD, of the  Nafferton Ecological Farming Group  at the University of Newcastle, and lead author of both studies. Omega-3 is much more prevalent in grass than in grain, which is why organic livestock and milk contain higher levels.

These new studies add to the mounting evidence which shows that organically grown foods contain higher essential nutrients than conventionally grown foods. A similar study, also from the University of Newcastle, finds that organic farmers who let their cows graze as nature intended are producing better quality milk, with significantly higher beneficial fatty acids, antioxidants and vitamins than their conventional counterparts.

Other studies that have looked  at organic produce also report better nutritional profiles. For instance, a ten-year University of California study, which compared organic tomatoes with those chemically grown, found that they have almost double the quantity of disease-fighting antioxidants called flavonoids. A  comprehensive review  of 97 published studies comparing the nutritional quality of organic and conventional foods show that organic plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, grains) contain higher levels of eight of 11 nutrients, including significantly greater concentrations of the health-promoting polyphenols and antioxidants.

Importantly,  studies  find that consumers are exposed to elevated levels of pesticides from conventionally grown food. Organic foods have been shown to reduce dietary pesticide exposure. and children who eat a  conventional diet  of food produced with chemical-intensive practices carry residues of organophosphate pesticides that are reduced or eliminated when they switch to an organic diet.  One 2015 study from the Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health (CERCH) shows that children, especially those in low-income and agricultural families, who switched to an organic diet.  reduced their bodies’  level of pesticides.

Beyond Pesticides advocates in its program and through its  Eating with a Conscience  website choosing organic because of the environmental and health benefits to consumers, workers, and rural families. The Eating with a Conscience database, based on legal tolerances (or allowable residues on food commodities), describes a food production system that enables toxic pesticide use both domestically and internationally, and provides a look at the toxic chemicals allowed in the production of the food we eat and the environmental and public health effects resulting from their use. For more information on the benefits of organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides’  Organic Food program page.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: The Guardian; Nafferton Ecological Farming Group

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