Milk from dairy cows that graze on pasture land rather than in feedlots might be healthier for your heart, according to a report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Dairy products are the main source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), an unsaturated fat that some studies show could protect the heart. Pasture-grazing dairy cows have more CLA in their milk than grain-fed cows, according to the report.
In a study of 3,600 people, the researchers found that people with the highest concentration of CLAs had a 36 percent lower risk of heart attack than people with the lowest CLAs.
“CLA, which is present in meaningful amounts in the milk of pasture-grazed cows, might offset the adverse effect of the saturated fat content of dairy products,” the authors concluded in their study.
One of the study’s authors, Hannia Campos, from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, told Reuters news service that dairy products in the U.S. come almost exclusively from feedlots, where cows are fed processed grain.
“Because pasture grazing leads to higher CLA in milk, and it is the natural feed for cattle, it seems like more emphasis should be given to this type of feeding,” Campos told Reuters.
In March, The U.S. Department of Agriculture released the final access to pasture rule for organic agriculture, including dairy. The final pasture rule will require organic animals to be out on pasture for not less than 120 days per year and to receive at least 30 percent of their feed from pasturing during the grazing season.
The AJCN study was conducted in Costa Rica, where dairy cows are still pasture-grazed.