Organic Produce: No Better than Non-Organic Foods?

By Sharon Moore on September 05, 2012

Most of us choose to buy organic food products because of their “increased’ health benefits. On a new study though, experts begged to disagree.

In a report published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers from the Stanford University in California reviewed the results of over a hundred studies on organic foods. Some of the studies compared the health benefits of organic milk, cheese and meat to their non-organic counterparts.

After summing up all the evidences presented, the researchers concluded that organic foods are no better than non-organic ones, as far as nutrition is concerned.

Why is that so?

The main difference between organic and non-organic produce is that the latter tend to contain 30% more pesticides than the former. The researchers contended that because any of the produce doesn’t exceed the safety limits of pesticide use, it is not known whether a reduction of a small exposure to the toxic chemicals will do any difference.

They also found that organic meats are less likely to contain the “superbug” bacteria. Infections derived from these bacteria are hard to treat because superbugs are resistant to antibiotics. Nonetheless, the researchers pointed out that most of antibiotic-resistance issues do not actually come from eating contaminated foods, but from medication misuse.

They also said that there’s no sufficient evidence that shows people who stick to organic diets are healthier than those who observe a non-organic diet.

What do other experts say?

Experts have different opinions on the matter. Some are pleased with the research because the findings tend to dispel the common myths about eating fresh fruits and vegetables. Just because organic farming is different from the conventional farming methods, doesn’t mean non-organic products are bad or unsafe, explained Melissa Joy Dobbins, RD, MS, from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She also added that organic products cost twice as much as non-organic ones.

For other experts, the study is misleading. According to Charles Benbrook, PhD, a professor of agriculture at Washington State University in Pullman, Wash, people might misinterpret the study and believe that organic foods don’t have health benefits at all. He cited another review carried out by a group of British researchers who concluded that organic products contain 12% more disease-fighting nutrients than non-organic foods.

On her comments, Sonya Lunder, MPH, a senior analyst with the non-profit Environmental Working Group, said that the study strongly supports the idea that nutrition is not the major reason why people buy organic foods. Such products, according to her, are marketed to be antibiotic-free and pesticide-free. However, sticking to them isn’t going to solve every health issue. Eating a varied diet is still necessary.


Source of this article:

Are Organic Foods Safer or Healthier Than Conventional Alternatives?: A Systematic Review, Smith-Spangler, C. Annals of Internal Medicine, Sept. 3, 2012


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