Organics May Not be Healthier, Says Study

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WholeFoods Magazine Staff
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Stanford, CA—Findings from a recent Stanford University study have caused a stir in the organic industry. According to the study’s data, organic foods may not be any more healthy or nutritional than their conventionally grown counterparts.

Researchers analyzed 237 studies, some comparing the nutrients levels of organic- and conventional-grown diets, and others testing the bacterial, fungal or pesticide contamination of organic and conventionally grown fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, milk, poultry and eggs tested on human subjects from a range of two days to two years.

The data showed little significant difference in health benefits between the organic and conventional grown foods, including vitamin levels (although phosphorus was found in higher amounts in the organic products) and also no difference between protein and fat content in both types of milk, though some studies included did find significantly higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in organic milk.

The aim of the test was not to dissuade people from buying organics, however.

“If you look beyond health effects, there are plenty of other reasons to buy organic instead of conventional,” said Dena Bravata, MD, MS, the senior author of a paper. This includes taste, environmental concerns, animal welfare and the amount of pesticides found in food. According to evidence found in the study, organic food has a 30% lower risk of pesticide contamination than conventional fruits and vegetables as well as a 33% lower risk for contamination in chicken and pork with bacteria resistant to three or more antibiotics than conventional meats.

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) does not consider this study a death sentence for the organic food industry. “Consumers seeking to minimize their exposure to pesticide residues will find that foods bearing the USDA Organic label are the gold standard. This is because organic foods have the least chemicals applied in their production and the least residues in the final products,” said Christine Bushway, OTA’s Executive Director and CEO.

Instead, the group remains optimistic that further, continued research will yield much more positive results.

“We are optimistic that in the future, good applied scientific research on organic food and farming will show that healthy soils produce healthy foods,” says Bushway.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, October 2012 (online 9/10/12)