ORGANIC milk contains almost three-quarters more of the ‘wonder nutrient’ Omega 3 than its conventional counterpart, according to a report.
The findings are among the first to confirm a genuine health benefit from eating a specific organic food.
One pint of the organic variety contains the entire recommended daily intake of Omega 3.
The nutrient is a polyunsaturated fatty acid important for the development of babies’ central nervous systems.
It is also reported to help youngsters perform better at school, calming rowdy behaviour and making the children more attentive.
In adults, it can help prevent blood clots, stop the furring of the arteries and calm a disturbed heart rhythm. Most people’s intake of Omega 3 comes through eating oily fish or – increasingly – cod liver oil supplements.
Official advice is that two to three portions a week are necessary to get the full benefit of the nutrient. However, there are concerns about the levels of pollutants in the flesh of oily fish.
In the milk, the strong content of the nutrient is understood to be a result of high levels of red clover included in feed for organically reared dairy cows.
The researchers, at Aberdeen University, also found the milk had a better balance of Omega 3 with a second fatty acid called Omega 6. Currently most people eat too much Omega 6 and too little Omega 3.
In ordinary milk fat, the Omega 3
content is put at 0.77grams per 100g, while the figure for organic milk is 1.32g. The result is that a pint delivers about 0.3g, the recommended daily intake.
In the case of skimmed and semiskimmed milk the benefit is less because some of the fat, which includes Omega 3, is removed.
For cheese lovers, a matchboxsize piece of an organic variety contains some 88 per cent of the recommended intake.
Jamie Robertson, the livestock projects manager at Aberdeen University, said: ‘ We are really excited by the results, which show that organic milk does contain significantly higher levels of the beneficial polyunsaturated fatty acid, Omega 3 and a trend of lower levels of Omega 6 than non-organic milk.
‘This is due to the higher proportion of clover forage in the diets of organic cows.’
Sally Bagenal, chief executive of organic dairy farming cooperative, OMSCo, said: ‘This research confirms the potential health benefits of switching to organic milk and cheese – particularly for those groups who don’t consume the recommended amount of oily fish.’
The Food Standards Agency has been sceptical of the health claims made for organic food. However, it has commissioned research to come to a firm conclusion.
It will examine whether vitamin, mineral and other nutrients are higher in organic farm produce.