Nutritional differences between organic and non-organic milk
Tuesday 19 September 2006
The Food Standards Agency has concluded an assessment of the evidence provided by the University of Glasgow, on the nutritional differences between organic and non-organic milk.
‘The Agency welcomes new evidence and data to ensure that its advice remains up to date and evidence based.’
This included new evidence from a study on the composition of organic milk1 on which the Agency was asked to reconsider its position.
The Agency welcomes new evidence and data to ensure that its advice remains up to date and evidence based. In reaching its conclusions, the Agency has sought the views of scientists who are expert in fats and health.
The FSA has concluded that whilst this study shows that organically produced milk can contain higher levels of types of fats called short-chain omega-3 fatty acids than conventionally produced milk, the evidence suggests that these fatty acids appear to be of limited health benefit compared to the longer chain omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish.2,3
Short-chain fatty acids can be converted to these long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to be protective against cardiovascular disease. However the conversion rate of the short-chain fatty acids to the longer chain fatty acids appears to be very limited.4,5
Therefore, organic milk consumed in volumes consistent with a healthy diet, would not provide sufficient amounts of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids to provide significant health benefits, over and above those associated with conventional milk.
The Agency continues to advise that people should eat at least two portions of fish per week, including one of oily fish, which is rich in long-chain omega-3.
1. Goyens PLL et al, (2006) Conversion of α-linolenic acid in humans is influenced by the absolute amounts of α-linolenic acid and linoleic acid in the diet and not by their ratio. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 84 44-53 (corrected 28 September 2006)
2. Akabas, S. R. and Deckelbaum, R J (2006) Summary of a workshop on n-3 fatty acids: current status of recommendations and future directions. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 83  1536S-1538S.
3. Sanderson P, Finnegan, Y, Williams C, Calder P, Burdge G, Wooton, S, Griffin B, Millward, D, Pegge, N and Bemelmans, W (2002) UK Food Standards Agency α-linolenic acid workshop report. Brit, J Nutr 88: 573-579
4. Williams, CM and Burdge G (2006) Long chain n-3 PUFA: plant v. marine sources. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 65:42-50
5. Burdge G, Calder P (2005). α-Linolenic acid metabolism in adult humans: the effect of gender and age on conversion to longer-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. Eur. J. Lipid Sci Technol. 107: 426-439