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Human health advantages of pasture-derived milk fat products

Many people today believe that dairy fats are an “unhealthy’ part of our daily diet. However, this belief is not supported by current scientific evidence. Here, PhD Walsh Scholar student, Orla Skillington at VistaMilk talks about the human health advantages of pasture-derived milk fat products


Dairy fat - Protective health benefits

In fact, recent research suggests that dairy fat hosts a plethora of protective health benefits. For examples, whole-fat and fermented dairy products have been purported to elicit protective health effects in the first days of life – helping establish a healthy gut microbiota and immune system. Similar studies have shown that in later life, dairy products could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity and various cancers.

Recent work has shown that dairy products, derived from a pasture-based feeding system, produce milks with higher nutritional status versus indoor TMR (total mixed rations) feeding systems – yielding more than a two-fold increase in total CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) and omega 3 fatty acids with significantly lower levels of unfavourable omega 6 fatty acids.

Study of milkfat-derived products from pasture

Given the lower saturated fat content of pasture-derived products, the implications for human health are highly significant. As part of my work at VistaMilk I will be investigating the potential benefits of milkfat-derived products from pasture versus indoor TMR feeding on human health. I will focus on the early-life gut microbiome and the effects these products have on metabolic syndrome, using an animal model of digestion.

The outcome of the project will be the identification of pasture-derived milkfat fractions of particular benefit to human health.

The figure below highlights the impact of pasture vs TMR feeding on the fatty acid profile of milk.

Tom O'Callaghan 2019

It was included in another Teagasc Research article by Tom F. O’Callaghan and Deirdre Hennessy in 2019 - Pasture feeding improves the nutritional composition of milk (PDF), from whom much of my work stems.

That study concluded that Pasture feeding has a beneficial effect on the nutritional profile of milk, with significantly higher concentrations of Omega-3 fatty acids, CLA, ß-carotene and other beneficial nutrients.

Orla Skillington's main research topics include:

  • Pasture-feeding
  • Healthy Dairy
  • Milk-fats
  • Gut Microbiome
  • Cardiovascular Health

We look forward to publishing more about Orla's research work here on Teagasc Daily in due course

Find out more about VistaMilk here