[UK] Beneficial fats associated with oily fish can be incorporated into cow’s milk to provide “super healthy” dairy products.
Caernarfon scientist Bethan Till, 26, made the startling conclusion by feeding micro-algae to dairy cows.
The PhD student hopes her findings will revolutionise dairy consumption as they have the potential to lower heart disease and boost mental wellbeing.
A tasting panel at Harper Adams University, Shropshire, has already given the thumbs up to cheese made from Bethan’s omega-3 enriched milk.
“Fish is typically regarded as a natural source of omega-3s but the levels are diminishing and less fish is being consumed,” she said.
“By increasing the level of omega-3 in cheese, which is already integrated into many people’s diets, they can have this healthier benefit without having to alter their eating and shopping habits.
“It’s also a good route to ensure that children achieve good intake levels of omega-3s as they’ll more readily consume milk and cheese, than, say, fish.”
Bethan’s study at Harper Adams involved feeding one of four diets to high yielding Holstein-Friesian dairy cows.
Three of these diets contained microalgae at different concentrations, with medium levels found to work best.
Cow performance, in terms of feed intake, milk yield and body condition score, was unaffected.
Bethan said her findings weren’t a surprise. “Micro-algae is at the bottom of the food chain and is eaten by fish, which are consequently rich in omega-3, so we knew it was a good source,” she said.
The study’s primary goal is to find ways of improving Western diets, which typically provide less-than-recommended levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids.
As well as off-setting cardiovascular disease and depression, these omega-3 compounds have been shown to enhance children’s learning abilities.
A secondary goal is to assess whether micro-algae improves fertility.
US researchers have found improved reproduction in dairy cows, with increased conception rates and fewer days to pregnancy. However the Harper Adams study is still at its early stages.
For Bethan, a key success of the Alltech-sponsored project was its positive impact on the taste of milk products.
“From the cheese tasting panel, we found there were no negative effects on taste,” she said.
“The colour and texture were also very similar to regular cheeses. In fact the panellists described it as having a pleasant, nutty flavour.”
View original article at: Milk from algae-fed dairy cows may be as good for your heart as oily fish