Mothers who eat organic dairy and meat products before and during pregnancy may improve the nutritional quality of their breast milk by increasing their beneficial fatty acids, according to a new study published in the British Journal of Nutrition (2007, vol. 97, no. 4).

Researchers analyzed breast-milk samples from 312 women from the Netherlands, all of whom were nursing one-month-old infants. They found that the breast milk of mothers who consumed at least 90 percent of their dairy and meat products from organic sources contained higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)—a "good" type of fat that aids immune system development in newborns.

"The findings provide scientific support for common sense by showing that organic foods are healthier," says Lukas Rist, PhD, the study's lead author and the head of research at the Paracelsus Hospital in Switzerland.

By eating a diet rich with organic dairy and meat, women can improve the quality of fatty acids in breast milk, providing health advantages for their newborns, he adds.

Previous laboratory studies have shown that CLA has anticarcinogenic, anti-atherosclerotic (or hardening of the arteries), antidiabetic, and immune-enhancing effects, as well as a favorable influence on body fat composition.

This new study adds to a small but growing body of evidence that organic diets offer superior nutritional benefits over conventional diets. According to the Cornucopia Institute, other ongoing studies are looking at the health of newborns fed by breastfeeding mothers who eat an organic diet.