Everyone from Dr. Oz to Michelle Obama has jumped on the nutrition wagon. You can’t pick up a magazine, log on to the Internet or flip through cable channels without bumping into an article or advertisement for the latest nutritional breakthrough, weight-loss secret or super food that will cure anything from cancer to ingrown toenails. Farmer’s markets are cropping up in towns and cities across the country, touting the benefits of locally grown produce, free-range chickens and other “organic” foodstuffs. Even the big-box grocery store chains have entire sections devoted to organic foods, alongside what is now labeled as “conventionally-grown” produce.
Most people would admit to wanting to be healthy, and eating food grown without chemicals or pesticides seems to make sense. Less of the bad stuff on the food, in the food and in your body. However, a Stanford University Study released in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that organic foods may not be the healthy alternatives they are cracked up to be. In a recent article in Medical News Today, “Organic Foods Have No Benefit Over Conventional Food, Says Study,” the study found no nutritional advantage in organic foods. While organic foods may have 30 percent less pesticide residue, the article points out this is not the dramatic benefit it is made out to be, since the residue level of conventional produce is well below the limits for human consumption.
The Stanford Team reviewed numerous studies and trials done to determine the nutritional benefits of organic food and found the studies “confusing” and less than thorough. If the Stanford researchers were confused, how is the ordinary consumer supposed to make an informed decision at the grocery store?
One fact about organic food is certain. It costs more at check out. There are fewer organic products than conventional to choose from in most stores. Scarcity can drive up prices. But if the nutritional value is the same, why pay more for an organic tomato?
The article did reveal some interesting contrasts:
- In one 2012 Study, organic rice was found to have higher levels of arsenic than conventionally-grown rice.
- While organic strawberries had higher levels of antioxidants and Vitamin C, they had lower levels of phosphorus and potassium than their conventional counterparts.
- Some organic foods were found to have higher levels of nitrogen. But this discovery was not found to contribute significantly to higher nutritional benefits.
- Some studies showed higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in organic milk. Some organic foods also had higher phenol levels. While good news for organic foods, most people don’t have a deficiency in these nutrients, so a greater level wasn’t found to be nutritionally significant.
- Some of the studies were short- or medium-term studies, which, the researcher found, didn’t make for compelling evidence. Their overall conclusion was that it's inconclusive whether organically grown food is healthier. Marketing of organic foods has certainly been successful. The article stated in1977, organic foods accounted for $3.6 billion in sales. That number rose to $26 billion by 2010.
Adele Davis spoke the old phrase, “You are what you eat,” and was famous in the 60’s with her emphasis on organic eating. If that is true, more research needs to be done to determine whether organic food makes sense for good health or is just a successful marketing campaign for healthier profits.
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