August 13, 2013 by Dr. Sana Keller
I recently watched a brief television news segment where a health care professional was asked if there was any difference between organic and non-organic foods. Her reply: ‘organic food is basically no different from non-organic since scientific studies have not proven major differences between the two’.
That’s just NOT TRUE. She didn’t cite any studies to support her position (to her credit, she wasn’t asked to do so). Maybe it was assumed that since she was a health care professional, what she said was true, but I’ve come to realize (as I know many of you have as well) that just because a professional (in any field) says something doesn’t mean that it’s true. I have included links to scientific studies below to back up the truth that organic and non-organic foods are not nutritionally the same. Read on…
When considering produce (fruits & vegetables), the following link provides scientific information about levels of pesticides in produce including a list (updated yearly based on the most current data) of the ‘Clean Fifteen’ (produce with the least pesticide amounts) and the ‘Dirty Dozen’ (produce with the highest levels of pesticides). http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/. This website provides basic information about which fruits and vegetables are best to avoid if non-organic, along with safer options of non-organic produce.
The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section of the above website contains information on ‘Why should I be concerned about pesticides?’ including information on the link between pesticides and health problems including cancer and hormone disruption: http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/faq.php This section includes specific data and studies to support their work and explain how some of the recent claims that ‘98% of fresh fruits and vegetables tested have no detectable residues’ are false.
Addressing the issue of nutrition value of organic vs. non-organic produce:
- A 2007 study out of Newcastle University in the United Kingdom reported that organic produce boasted up to 40 percent higher levels of some nutrients (including vitamin C, zinc and iron) than its conventional counterparts.
- A 2003 study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that organically grown berries and corn contained 58 percent more polyphenols—antioxidants that help prevent cardiovascular disease—and up to 52 percent higher levels of vitamin C than those conventionally grown.
- A 2007 study by the University of California found organic tomatoes had elevated levels of up to 97 percent of two types of antioxidants.
- A team of plant and food scientists carried out a sophisticated meta-analysis of the “organic-versus-conventional food” nutrient-content literature. The team was led by a scientist at the Human Nutrition Research Center, NewcastleUniversity in the United Kingdom. Their analysis was published in Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences in 2011, under the title, “Agroecosystem Management and Nutritional Quality of Plant Foods: The Case of Organic Fruits and Vegetables” which documents the significant differences in favor of organically grown food.
- A website with further scientific studies supporting the ‘organic food is nutritionally better for us’ argument: http://www.ota.com/organic/benefits/nutrition.html
When considering organic food items other than produce (i.e. packaged, canned), organic foods do not contain preservatives and other chemicals which have been found to have negative effects on our health. This is a topic of discussion by itself.
I have learned (over the years of my studies) to assess both sides of an argument/issue—and I have also learned to look for the funding sources of each study to determine a possible ‘agenda’ in promoting specific information. Promoters of the concept that ‘organic food is no different from non-organic’ are usually supported by large agricultural groups such as the National Corn Growers Association and the National Dairy Council, defending their current practices for revenue-related reasons (as opposed to health-related reasons).
Yes, organic foods do cost more…in a short-term assessment. Yet, when the ‘Big Picture’ or long-term health benefits are considered, more and more people are realizing the the investment in quality foods NOW can provide HUGE health benefits in the long run. Minimizing pesticides to minimize potential health challenges and maximizing nutrients to maximize health—Now THAT’S a great investment!
I look forward to your comments.
Photo credits: sott.net & sciencedaily.com