A study by the University of Reading has indicated that common British weeds could have a more positive effect on raising lambs with healthier fat levels.
Nutrition researchers at the university say that giving sheep and lambs a more varied diet leads to lamb meat with more polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), including Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. These essential acids are considered more healthy for humans.
In this study, the team at the University of Reading conducted two experiments, to assess the profile of fatty acids found in six common plants.
Dr Kirsty Kliem from the University of Reading who was lead author of the paper said: “This study is the first to focus on common British plants that are often found growing wild in meadows and biodiverse pastures. The results were really encouraging as we saw that by including these plants in pasture consumed by lambs, there were more ‘healthy’ fatty acids appearing in the lamb meat.”
The plants that had the most positive effects on lamb were the common British weed selfheal, Prunella vulgaris, as well as birdsfoot trefoil; both of which had the greatest potential to increase the amount of ’healthier’ polyunsaturated fatty acids absorbed by the animal.
Professor Ian Givens from the University of Reading also commented: “Despite all the confusion about saturated fats, the evidence remains that if saturated fats are replaced with PUFA there is a reduced risk of heart disease. ‘Replaced’ is the key word and whilst there was no significant reduction in saturates in the lamb meat, there would be a decrease in the ratio between saturated and unsaturated fat in the meat.”
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