Common British weeds could hold the key to ‘healthier’ lamb

Common British weeds could hold the key to ‘healthier’ lamb

A study by the University of Reading has indicated that common British plants could have a 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 – which are considered healthy for humans.

In a study, the team conducted two experiments to assess the profile of fatty acids found in six common plants. The first test assessed how these plants affect the amount of PUFA available to lambs after simulated digestion.

The second involved lambs grazing on pasture which included the six plants, and assessed the content of the ‘healthier’ fatty acids in lamb meat.

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.”

Having 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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