Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Organic Foods No Healthier Than Conventional Foods

Annals of Health

In a comprehensive study conducted by Stanford University, scientists have found that foods labeled organic do not necessarily confer any greater health benefit on consumers, nor are they necessarily more nutritious than non-organic or conventional  foods.  It's true that organic foods have been shown to contain lower levels of pesticides than conventional foods, but these levels are still within government guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The study, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, the journal of the American College of Physicians (ACP), notes the following:
Researchers conducted a systematic review of 17 human studies and 223 studies of nutrient and contaminant levels in unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, milk, eggs, chicken, pork, and meat to compare the health, nutritional, and safety characteristics of organic and conventional foods. They found that the published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods.
"Some believe that organic food is always healthier and more nutritious," said Crystal Smith-Spangler, MD MS, a VA Physician Fellow at CHP/PCOR, and lead author of the paper. "My colleagues and I were a little surprised that we didn't find that."
The researchers did find weak evidence of the nutritional superiority of organic foods in that organic produce contained significantly higher levels of total phenols, a compound that may have antioxidant properties, and that organic milk and chicken contained significantly higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids. However, the researchers concluded that since few people have phosphorous deficiency, the finding has little clinical significance.
Given that organic foods can cost up to twice as much as conventional foods, consumers will have to decide if it's worth it to continue buying foods that have little nutritional advantage. The small additional benefit of reduced pesticides might be enough for some to continue buying organic—a market that has shown robust growth between 1997 and today, where annual sales now total more than $26 billion in the U.S. It's also likely that some organic consumers, ardent in their beliefs, will dismiss this scientific study, as they do many others that do not meet their thoughts on the subject. Even so, it's good to know what science thinks on the matter.

You can read the rest of the article at [Science Codex].

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