Omega-3 fatty acids, applied today in a range of functional food products, are thought to play an important role in maintaining heart health, combating the effects of arthritis, reducing the risk of Alzheimer's - that affects an estimated 12 million around the world - and developing healthy brains in unborn children.
Sally Bagenal, chief executive of OMSCo, the UK's leading co-op of British organic dairy farmers said: "Sir John Krebs [leader of the FSA] has said in the past that there is no proof of the health benefits for organic food and drink, now it unequivocally exists. We are inviting the FSA to start recommending organic milk as part of a healthy diet."
With the organic milk market in the UK growing at more than 30 per cent year on year, the industry body is keen to keep up the pace. This latest research could confirm its appeal to food manufacturers.
The research, published in Journal of Dairy Science, vol. 86, pp. 2598-2611, led by Dr Richard Dewhurst at IGER, found that samples of milk from organic cows contained at least 64 per cent more omega-3 than conventional milk.
"Organic dairy farmers feed much higher levels of clover because they use it as an alternative to using synthetic chemical fertilisers to ensure lush pastures," said Dr. Dewhurst, joint leader of the Nutrition and Microbiology team at the Aberystwyth-based institute.
Omega 3 fatty acids have to be obtained from food as they cannot be made in the body. Nutritionist Sian Porter added : "Most people in the UK do not have an adequate intake of omega 3 fatty acids and need to increase the amount of omega 3 rich foods in the diet. "
According to the dietician, consuming just half a pint a day of organic milk could provide approximately 10 per cent of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of essential n-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid.
Leading suppliers of omega-3 to the market include Dutch-based Loders Croklaan - Lipid Nutrition, the UK's Croda Oleochemicals, Germany's Flavex Naturextrakte and Norwegian company Pronova Biocare and EPAX.