A recent study published by Annals of Internal Medicine reviewed research comparing organic vs non-organic foods. What has been largely reported in mainstream media is the finding that organic foods are not significantly different from non-organic foods when it comes to vitamin and mineral content. What has been omitted from these reports is the other side of this research, which found that conventional foods contain 30% more pesticides and 30% more multi-antibiotic resistant bacteria. This is a significant finding that sadly has received almost no press. The problem is the confusion of the concept of 'nutrition' with that of 'health'.
What the research says:
1- Some organic foods exhibit higher nutrient value than conventional foods: organic produce contains higher antioxidant levels and organic poulty and dairy contain higher omega-3 levels. These examples are simply not significant enough for the researcher to make general conclusions regarding nutrients and organic foods.
2- Consumption of vitamins and mineral are just one of the factors affecting health. For example, a 2010 paper in Pediatrics found higher levels of pesticide metabolites in the urine of children with ADHD. Pesticides may not be the cause of ADHD, but they are certainly implicated by association.
3- Antibiotic-resistance in humans is a topic of great concern. According to the Food Safety Director at the US Center for Science in
the Public Interest, 24 infectious outbreaks between 2000 and 2010 were
linked to multidrug-resistant germs in food. Conventionally raised animals are fed antibiotics both to treat infections that are rampant in factory-farm settings, and to help fatten them up for sale. The result of over-medicating these animals is one of the contributing factors in the growing prevalence of hard to treat bugs like MRSA.
4- In this recent systematic review of 226 studies, only three studies looked at clinical outcomes, all of which were short-term outcomes such as allergies and symptomatic infection. There is no information provided from this research about the long-term health effects of pesticide consumption, for example.
The bottom line:
Some organic foods are more nutritious than conventionally grown foods, but in general the research shows little evidence of this benefit. Where organic beats conventional hands down is with respect to overall health value. Organic foods are significantly less contaminated with pesticides, have far less antibiotic-resistant bacteria living on and in them, and may in fact have more beneficial qualities that have yet to be uncovered by modern science. Eating organic whole foods may not always be the more nutritious choice, but it is certainly the healthier choice.
On a related note:
For this week only, watch a new documentary that reveals the
serious health impacts of genetically engineered foods in our diets and shows
how you can protect your family. Available online for free from September 15-22 at www.GeneticRouletteMovie.com