Report Cites No Health Benefit From Organic Foods

Shoppers in the produce section

“There isn’t much difference between organic and conventional foods, if you’re an adult and making a decision based solely on your health,” says Dena Bravata, MD, MS, the senior author of a paper comparing the nutrition of organic and non-organic foods, published in the Sept. 4 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.

A team led by Bravata, a senior affiliate with Stanford University’s Center for Health Policy, and Crystal Smith-Spangler, MD, MS, an instructor in the school’s Division of General Medical Disciplines and a physician-investigator at VA Palo Alto Health Care System, did the most comprehensive meta-analysis to date of existing studies comparing organic and conventional foods. They did not find strong evidence that organic foods are more nutritious or carry fewer health risks than conventional alternatives, though consumption of organic foods can reduce the risk of pesticide exposure.

For their study, the researchers sifted through thousands of papers and identified 237 of the most relevant to analyze. Those included 17 studies (six of which were randomized clinical trials) of populations consuming organic and conventional diets, and 223 studies that compared either the nutrient levels or the bacterial, fungal or pesticide contamination of various products (fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, milk, poultry, and eggs) grown organically and conventionally. There were no long-term studies of health outcomes of people consuming organic versus conventionally produced food; the duration of the studies involving human subjects ranged from two days to two years.

After analyzing the data, the researchers found little significant difference in health benefits between organic and conventional foods. No consistent differences were seen in the vitamin content of organic products, and only one nutrient — phosphorus — was significantly higher in organic versus conventionally grown produce (and the researchers note that because few people have phosphorous deficiency, this has little clinical significance). There was also no difference in protein or fat content between organic and conventional milk, though evidence from a limited number of studies suggested that organic milk may contain significantly higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

The researchers were also unable to identify specific fruits and vegetables for which organic appeared the consistently healthier choice, despite running what Bravata called “tons of analyses.”

For more information on the study, click here.

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3 comments on “Report Cites No Health Benefit From Organic Foods

  1. Gene Gregor

    What a great vote of confidence for the organic industry. The "tests" have revealed that the organic industry can deliver the same healthful / nutritious product to the public while using less harmful chemicals. This becomes a testimony to the organic way, which is to deliver the same product while causing less harm to the environment and the public in general.

  2. vernagain

    Hello: Conventional vs Organic ? ! I see Organic methods more conventional than Using petroleum based chemicals to modify the growing inviornment. People have grown Organically for thousands of years. These convenient chemicals have only been used since the end of the second world war.