Organic meat and milk improves human breast milk quality

by Editor
Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The breast milk of mothers consuming organic meat and dairy contains higher levels of beneficial fatty acids, and has an overall improved quality.

The new study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, reports that obtaining at least 90% of meat and dairy products from organic sources increases levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in human breast milk.

According to lead author Lukas Rist from Switzerland the levels of both rumenic acid and trans-vaccenic acid (TVA) in human breast milk were higher in the case of mothers following a diet that contained organic meat and dairy products, in comparison with mothers consuming a conventional diet.

Rist and co-workers took breast milk samples from 312 breastfeeding mothers taking part in the KOALA Birth Cohort Study. Dietary intakes of organic and conventionally produced foods were assessed using a 160-item food frequency questionnaire (FFQ).

The researchers report that the content of rumenic acid (the main CLA) increased significantly with increasing organic dairy and meat consumption. Indeed, rumenic acid content was 0.25% w/w for a diet containing no organic meat and dairy, and this increased to 0.34% w/w for a strict organic diet.

TVA levels also increased, going from 0.48% w/w for a diet containing no organic dairy and meat, to 0.59% w/w for a strict organic diet.

The study is in-line with a recent review, published in the journal Nutrition Bulletin and authored by the British Nutrition Foundation's Claire Williamson. For the dairy industry, Williamson quotes several studies that reported improved nutrient levels for alpha-linolenic acid (ALNA), conjugated linoleic acid, alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E), beta-carotene, and/or a higher proportion of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) to monounsaturated fatty acids in the organically produced dairy.