No proof that organic foods are beneficial for health: study

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Consumers who opt for organic foods often believe it improves their health, but there is currently no strong evidence that organic products provide nutrition-related health benefits, according to a researcher. new research study.

Chili peppers are displayed for sale from a roadside organic stand in Ranch Santa Fe, California October 5, 2007. REUTERS/Mike Blake

A ‘disappointing’ number of well-designed studies have investigated whether organic foods may have health benefits beyond their conventional counterparts, according to the study by researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Health in the UK -United.

What’s more, they found that the studies done have largely focused on the short-term effects of organic food — primarily antioxidant activity in the body — rather than long-term health outcomes. And most antioxidant studies have failed to find differences between organic and conventional diets.

The review, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, adds to findings reported last year by the same research team.

In this study, the researchers combed through 162 articles published in the scientific literature over the past 50 years and found no evidence that organic and conventional foods differ significantly in their nutrient content.

For the current review, the researchers were only able to find 12 published studies that met their criteria for assessing the health effects of organic foods.

“A surprising and important finding of this review is the extremely limited nature of the evidence base on this topic, both in terms of the number and quality of studies,” write Dr. Alan D. Dangour and colleagues.

Research in the area appears to be increasing, Dangour’s team notes; 4 of the 12 studies they reviewed were published in 2008 or 2009.

But going forward, the researchers add, studies — both in humans and animals — will need to be better designed.

Of the 12 studies identified by the researchers, 6 were short-term clinical trials investigating whether specific organic foods changed markers of antioxidant activity in participants’ blood.

These trials showed no strong evidence that organic food boosted antioxidant activity, but the studies were also very limited in scope: they were small – the largest including 43 men – and lasted no longer. of a few weeks.

Of the other 6 studies, one found an association between organic foods and a lower risk of allergic skin eczema in almost 2,800 Dutch children aged 2 or younger.

In this study, parents were repeatedly asked about their children’s diet and any episodes of eczema during the first two years of life. Researchers found that children who consumed strictly organic dairy products had a lower risk of eczema than those who consumed conventional dairy products.

However, the study had several key limitations, including its reliance on parental reports of eczema. And the basic design of the study does not allow conclusions to be drawn about whether the children’s consumption of organic dairy products was the reason for the lower risk of eczema.

Although questions remain as to whether organic foods have additional nutritional value, people also buy organic products for a number of other reasons.

Organic foods are made without the use of conventional pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics or hormones – which could potentially benefit people’s health and the environment.

The current review, Dangour and colleagues point out, did not look for studies of the possible health benefits of reduced exposure to these substances. It also did not address the environmental impact of organic food production.

SOURCE: Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online May 12, 2010.

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