Patient after patient asked: Is eating organic food, which costs more, really better for me?
Unsure, Stanford University doctors dug through reams of research to find out - and concluded there’s little evidence that going organic is much healthier, citing only a few differences involving pesticides and antibiotics.
Eating organic fruits and vegetables can lower exposure to pesticides, including for children - but the amount measured from conventionally grown produce was within safety limits, the researchers reported Monday.
Nor did the organic foods prove more nutritious.
“I was absolutely surprised,” said Dr. Dena Bravata, a senior research affiliate at Stanford and long-time internist who began the analysis because so many of her patients asked if they should switch.
“There are many reasons why someone might choose organic foods over conventional foods,” from environmental concerns to taste preferences, Bravata stressed. But when it comes to individual health, “there isn’t much difference.”
Her team did find a notable difference with antibiotic-resistant germs, a public health concern because they are harder to treat if they cause food poisoning.
Specialists long have said that organic or not, the chances of bacterial contamination of food are the same, and Monday’s analysis agreed. But when bacteria did lurk in chicken or pork, germs in the non-organic meats had a 33 percent higher risk of being resistant to multiple antibiotics, the researchers reported Monday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
The health benefits of organic food are more perceived than real. However, the public opinion that organic food is healthier than conventional food is quite strong and is the sole reason for about 30% growth in the organic food industry since the past 5-6 years.
Organic Facts is a strong proponent of organic food; however, the website believes in putting across the facts right to its visitors.
There is little scientific evidence to prove that organic food is better in quality than conventional food. Scientific research conducted so far on various organic food items have not been able to give strong signals about the superiority of organic food over non organic food. As a result, even the FDA and the USDA clearly mention that non organic food is as healthy as organic food. However, there are some scientific studies that have proved organic milk and organic tomatoes to be better than the non-organic ones.
Organic Milk: Recent research conducted on organic milk has shown that it has more anti-oxidants, omega 3, CLA, and vitamins than non organic milk. According to the researchers at the Danish Institute of Agricultural Research, University of Aberdeen, and the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research, organic milk is healthier than non organic milk as organic cows are pasture grazed which results in better quality milk.
That finding comes amid debate over feeding animals antibiotics, not because they’re sick but to fatten them up. Farmers say it’s necessary to meet demand for cheap meat. Public health advocates say it’s one contributor to the nation’s growing problem with increasingly hard-to-treat germs. Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, counted 24 outbreaks linked to multidrug-resistant germs in food between 2000 and 2010.
The government has begun steps to curb the nonmedical use of antibiotics on the farm.
Organic foods account for 4.2 percent of retail food sales, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It certifies products as organic if they meet certain requirements including being produced without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, or routine use of antibiotics or growth hormones.
Consumers can pay a lot more for some organic products but demand is rising: Organic foods accounted for $31.4 billion sales last year, according to a recent Obama administration report. That’s up from $3.6 billion in 1997.
The Stanford team combed through thousands of studies to analyze the 237 that most rigorously compared organic and conventional foods. Bravata was dismayed that just 17 compared how people fared eating either diet while the rest investigated properties of the foods themselves.
Organic produce had a 30 percent lower risk of containing detectable pesticide levels. In two studies of children, urine testing showed lower pesticide levels in those on organic diets. But Bravata cautioned that both groups harbored very small amounts - and said one study suggested insecticide use in their homes may be more to blame than their food.