Organic food no more nutritious than non-organic: study

Tue Sep 4, 2012 2:11am EDT

An organically grown Heirloom tomato is seen in the produce section at the Whole Foods grocery story in Ann Arbor, Michigan, March 8, 2012. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

An organically grown Heirloom tomato is seen in the produce section at the Whole Foods grocery story in Ann Arbor, Michigan, March 8, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Rebecca Cook

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(Reuters) - Organic produce and meat typically isn't any better for you than conventional food when it comes to vitamin and nutrient content, although it does generally reduce exposure to pesticides and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, according to a U.S. study.

"People choose to buy organic foods for many different reasons. One of them is perceived health benefits," said Crystal Smith-Spangler, who led a team of researchers from Stanford University and the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care.

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

She and her colleagues reviewed more than 200 studies that compared either the health of people who ate organic or conventional foods or, more commonly, nutrient and contaminant levels in the foods themselves.

The foods included organic and non-organic fruits, vegetables, grains, meat, poultry eggs and milk.

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture standards, organic farms have to avoid the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, hormones and antibiotics. Organic livestock must also have access to pastures during grazing season.

Many of the studies used, though, didn't specify their standards for what constituted "organic" food, which can cost as much as twice what conventional food costs, the researchers wrote in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Smith-Spangler and her colleagues found there was no difference in the amount of vitamins in plant or animal products produced organically and conventionally - and the only nutrient difference was slightly more phosphorous in the organic products.

Organic milk and chicken may also contain more omega-3 fatty acids, but that was based on only a few studies.

More than one third of conventional produce had detectable pesticide residues, compared with 7 percent of organic produce samples. Organic pork and chicken were 33 percent less likely to carry bacteria resistant to three or more antibiotics than conventionally produced meat.

Smith-Spangler told Reuters Health it was uncommon for either organic or conventional foods to exceed the allowable limits for pesticides, so it was not clear whether a difference in residues would have an effect on health.

But others said more research is needed to fully explore the potential health and safety differences between organic and conventional foods, and it was premature to say organic foods aren't any healthier than non-organic versions.

"Right now I think it's all based on anecdotal evidence," said Chensheng Lu, who studies environmental health and exposure at the Harvard School of Public Health. bit.ly/PShmuj

(Reporting from New York by Genevra Pittman at Reuters Health; Editing by Elaine Lies and Robert Birsel)

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Comments (11)
tdubbya wrote:
How much did that study cost? Let me see if I’ve got this right … if you are willing to pay enough to purchase food that has been pretty much left alone, the pesticides, fertilizer, and chemicals probably won’t kill you or make you sick. Well, dang. Glad they got that figured out. BUT, if you let the “frankenfood” industry squirt deadly chemicals all over them, hey, costs less; at least in the short term. Brilliant guys … only in America.

Sep 04, 2012 3:16am EDT  --  Report as abuse
ocnaturaldoc wrote:
The point of organics isn’t about nutrition, it’s about alleviating the body of hazardous toxins via chemical-laden conventionally-grown produce and hormone-packed livestock and fish feed. Both are proven human health risks.

Since you brought it up, expensive GMO seeds are void of nutrition and are chock full of pesticides to kill off insects as the crop (corn, soy, etc.) grow, exploding the stomach of an unsuspecting hungry bug during ingestion. These chemicals also have toxic affects on humans. There are no studies to show if these are safe for consumption or long-term effect on humans. And the manufacturers, Monsanto being the largest, don’t want you to know what’s in your food. They make RoundUp and Agent Orange — and told everyone that they were safe. They’re obviously not. So, are you going to believe Monsanto NOW? They’re spending MILLIONS, as I write this, to keep you in the dark.

Do you think you really know your food source? You don’t. You think you’re safe because you shop at Whole Foods? You’re not. There are no labeling requirements for manufacturers and producers of these Frankenfoods. Vote YES on California Prop 37. You have a right to know.

Sep 04, 2012 6:47am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Gunser wrote:
Wonder where the funding came from???

Sep 04, 2012 9:34am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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