Sept 4 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
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.
(Reporting from New York by Genevra Pittman at Reuters Health;
Editing by Elaine Lies and Robert Birsel)