Research shows little evidence that organic foods are more nutritious than conventional foods

I have a confession. I am a mother of two young girls, and I don’t always buy organic. Ok, I almost never do. You might be thinking, “So what?”, but in the pocket of the world I live in, that’s a big deal. Many (most?) people who afford it buy it. And some parents who To do buy it despise those who don’t. (Don’t believe me? Come to the playground and watch me tell some of the moms that the banana my 3-year-old is snacking on isn’t organic. You’ll see what I mean.)

Here’s the problem: I buy nutritious food for my kids and try to teach them healthy eating habits. I love them and want the best for them, of course, but I could never really justify buying organic. (Other people don’t seem to have the same problem: Between 1997 and 2011, U.S. sales of organic foods — which sometimes cost twice as much as their conventional cousins ​​— jumped from $3.6 billion to $24.4 billion.) my Midwestern frugality, or my tendency to reject things that I feel are forced upon me – hence why I don’t want/have an iPhone, for example . But the bigger truth is that I haven’t been convinced that organic food is much better for a person, health-wise. (Show me the proof, and I’ll open my wallet.)

Now, with the release today of a study on the health benefits and risks of organic foods, I feel like I have a bit of ammunition to use against judgmental moms. The researchers here performed the most comprehensive meta-analysis to date of existing studies comparing organic and conventional foods and found little evidence that organic foods are more nutritious or pose fewer health risks than conventional alternatives. (They found, unsurprisingly, that eating organic foods reduced the risk of pesticide exposure, but even conventional foods were generally within safe limits.) As I explain in our release on the Annals of Internal Medicine paper:

No consistent differences were observed in the vitamin content of organic produce, and only one nutrient – phosphorus – was significantly higher in organic produce compared to conventionally grown produce (and the researchers note that, as few people suffer from phosphorus deficiency, it has little clinical significance). There was also no difference in protein or fat content between organic and conventional milk, although evidence from a limited number of studies suggests that organic milk may contain significantly higher levels. of omega-3 fatty acids.

The researchers were also unable to identify specific fruits and vegetables for which organic seemed to be the consistently healthier choice, despite using this. [senior author Dena Bravata, MD, MS, a senior affiliate with Stanford’s Center for Health Policy and a chief medical officer of Castlight Health] called “tons of analysis”.

“Some think organic food is always healthier and more nutritious,” said [first author Crystal Smith-Spangler, MD, MS]. “We were a little surprised we didn’t find that.”

In recent conversations, the two researchers stressed that their aim was not to discourage people from buying organic products if they wanted to – there are, after all, other reasons to choose organic besides health considerations. Rather, what they aim to do is clarify a previously murky area and, in turn, help to inform the choices made in the supermarket. “It’s information that people can use to make their own decisions based on their level of concern about pesticides, their budget, and other considerations,” Smith-Spangler told me.

As for me, I hope the results equate to fewer dirty looks on the playing field.

Previously: When it comes to nutritional value, debating “organic” versus “conventionally grown” may be off the mark, Organic versus natural: Tips for parents who want to go green, “Natural” or not, the nuggets of chicken are high in fat, sodium and People equate “organic” with “healthy,” risking poor food choices
Photo by Mikecogh

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