BACKGROUND: There is considerable interest in dairy products from low-input systems, such as mountain-pasture grazing cows, because these products are believed to be healthier than products from high-input conventional systems. This may be due to a higher content of bioactive components, such as phytanic acid, a PPAR-agonist derived from chlorophyll. However, the effects of such products on human health have been poorly investigated.
OBJECTIVE: To compare the effect of milk-fat from mountain-pasture grazing cows (G) and conventionally fed cows (C) on risk markers of the metabolic syndrome.
DESIGN: In a double-blind, randomized, 12-week, parallel intervention study, 38 healthy subjects replaced part of their habitual dietary fat intake with 39 g fat from test butter made from milk from mountain-pasture grazing cows or from cows fed conventional winter fodder. Glucose-tolerance and circulating risk markers were analysed before and after the intervention.RESULTS: No differences in blood lipids, lipoproteins, hsCRP, insulin, glucose or glucose-tolerance were observed. Interestingly, strong correlations between phytanic acid at baseline and total (P<0.0001) and LDL cholesterol (P=0.0001) were observed.
CONCLUSIONS: Lack of effects on blood lipids and inflammation indicates that dairy products from mountain-pasture grazing cows are not healthier than products from high-input conventional systems. Considering the strong correlation between LDL cholesterol and phytanic acid at baseline, it may be suggested that phytanic acid increases total and LDL cholesterol.