Organic food no healthier than conventional foods

By Mariam Digges

Tossing up whether to spend more on organic food? A new study has found that organic produce does not pose any substantial health benefits over conventional foods.

Researchers at Stanford University and the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System have found that, while organic food may not pose any benefits from a vitamin and nutrition count perspective, they may reduce a person’s exposure to pesticides and antibiotic-resistant bacteria. 

“People choose to buy organic foods for many different reasons. One of them is perceived health benefits,” said study leader Dr. Crystal Smith-Spangler.

“Our patients, our families ask about, ‘Well, are there health reasons to choose organic food in terms of nutritional content or human health outcomes?'”

Smith-Spangler’s team reviewed evidence from over 200 previous studies into the area, which compared the health of people who ate organic versus those who opted for less expensive conventional foods. They also compared the nutrient levels in the foods themselves. Included in the study was an examination of organic and non-organic meat, eggs, fruit, vegetables, milk, grains, and poultry.

One nutrient which was found to be significantly higher in organic foods, was phosphorus, however researchers claimed this was of “little clinical significance” because very few people were lacking in phosphorus. Another minor health benefit was a slightly higher level of omega-3 fatty acids in organic milk and chicken.

But, as far as the other food groups were concerned, the health benefits of producing them organically were unidentifiable, according to the researchers. 

There was, however, a significant difference in the amount of pesticide residue and antibiotic-resistant germs, found in conventional foods. More than one-third of non-organic food tested carried pesticide residue, but it still came in at under the allowable pesticide content for foods.

Regardless, for those wishing to make health-conscious everyday food choices, a diet lacking in pesticides of any form would make the decision to go organic a viable one – it simply comes down to how much the consumer is willing to pay for it. 


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