Another study suggests organic food is no more nutritious than conventional produced food

Organic food no better for vitamins and nutrients, suggests US study.

Organic produce and meat typically is no 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 US study.

Crystal Smith-Spangler, who led a team of researchers from Stanford University and Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care, 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.

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 products.

Organic milk and chicken may also contain more omega-3 fatty acids, but that was based on only a few studies.


Tip: @guardianscience on Twitter

This is still a common myth with the public, that organic is BETTER for you in ways that it really isn’t. It’s a fad for one and it’s costing people money that may not be worth it.

From Skeptoid:

Five or ten years ago, when the major food producers saw that organic food was coming into vogue, what do you think they did? They smelled higher prices charged for less product, and started producing organic crops. Nearly all organic crops in the United States are either grown, distributed, or sold by exactly the same companies who produce conventional crops.

The National Review reports that Americans believe organic food is healthier by a 2-1 margin, despite the lack of any evidence supporting this. When you take the exact same strain of a plant and grow it in two different ways, its chemical and genetic makeup remain the same. One may be larger than the other if one growing method was more efficient, but its fundamental makeup and biochemical content is defined by its genes, not by the way it was grown. Consumer Reports found no consistent difference in appearance, flavor, or texture. A blanket statement like “organic cultivation results in a crop with superior nutritional value” has no logical or factual basis.

And from Science-Based Medicine, more research is needed. The above article lends credence to the idea that it’s NOT any more nutritious:

Overall there does not appear to be any advantage for health to organic farming (sustainability and environmental effects being a separate issue). However, despite the fact that organic farming has been around for over 50 years, there is a surprisingly small amount of quality research available. The organic farming industry and popularity of organic products is growing. Organic products are more expensive, and questions remain about whether or not such methods would be adequate to supply our food needs. There may also be hidden health risks or unintended consequences to relying upon organic farming. There may also be benefits that have not been adequately documented. Therefore, this is one area where I think it is reasonable to conclude more research is genuinely needed.

So, if the extra pesticides and fertilizers bother you, then choose organic. But know that those extra additives in the process may not make any difference to you or the environment. At least several studies so far have not shown there is a difference.

  9 comments for “Another study suggests organic food is no more nutritious than conventional produced food

  1. One Eyed Jack
    September 4, 2012 at 4:29 PM

    Organic food was never about more nutritious or higher quality. It was about agricultural sustainability and lower environmental impact. It was the Yuppie crowd and marketers that created the whole “healthier” myth.

    On average organic food is lower quality when viewed in terms of size, imperfections, and insect damage. It’s a trade made for not using commercial fertilizers, pesticides, or GMO crops. Yet, as the studies show, “more nutritious” is the take away message for most.

  2. Neurotic K9
    September 4, 2012 at 7:03 PM

    Organic foods do not necessarily mean no pesticides. Food can still be labeled organic if organic pesticides are used. However, many of the organic pesticides are just as deadly as the man made ones and less studied and understood as to there effect on humans. Many of the man made pesticides are modeled on the organic ones.

    • Haldurson
      September 5, 2012 at 5:43 AM

      All farming uses pesticides.

      Penn and Teller did a story on this a couple of years back — I found a piece of it on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhBKtjDtTVk

      According to the people interviewed, Organic pesticides can actually be more harmful than synthetics, and Organic farming may actually be worse for the environment than regular farming.

    • One Eyed Jack
      September 5, 2012 at 10:29 AM

      Understood and I agree, Neurotic.

      I wasn’t clear, but I was talking about what Organic was intended to mean and not what people can get by with due to labeling laws. US labeling laws are full of holes like this.

  3. Geoff
    September 5, 2012 at 2:38 PM

    My food is comprised of carbon chains. It’s organic.

    Seriously though…are their any rigorous criteria for defining what is and isn’t organic? I just assume that all they do is slap on a label and jack the price.

    Make all my food GMO. STAT.

    • September 5, 2012 at 8:40 PM

      There are standards to be met to allow the label “organic.” However, I don’t know if the government checks too closely. In our community I buy from people who call their produce “natural” rather than organic. That way they don’t have to jump through the costly government hoops & are able to use pesticides when necessary. None of the growers I know use chemical fertilizers. This being a small community I know the farmers I buy from & in many cases have been to their farms.

      I’ve noticed that locally grown “natural” food is often of higher quality than commercially grown food & is usually the same price as in the grocery store, or even cheaper.

      Big cities may not have the same price breaks or food quality. Large-scale organic farmers may have a similar negative impact on the land & ground water that farming with petrochemicals & antibiotics has. That’s something I don’t know.

      Almost all the meat we eat is either grown by us or by friends. The beef is 100% grass-fed, very lean & tasty – and no more expensive than the fatty stuff the store sells.

  4. One Eyed Jack
    September 6, 2012 at 2:06 PM

    The label “Natural” has no official FDA or USDA definition that I am aware of, so a grower could slap it on anything they want.

    It’s a good thing to support local growers. Local sourcing is good for the community economically. When you are buying locally from the grower, you also cut out several layers of mark up.

    As for your beef comment, I have to disagree slightly. Lean may be healthy, but fat equals taste. Quality beef needs a nice marble for the best taste. Of course, there is a difference between marbling and untrimmed fat, and maybe that is what you mean.

    • September 7, 2012 at 1:37 PM

      Jack – I wouldn’t trust the lable of “natural” on anything produced by big companies. I’m lucky – at our farmer’s markets the farmers agree to not use chemical pesticides & petrochemical fertilizers. And people are welcome to go see for themselves.

      The 100% grass-fed beef does have a slightly different flavor, but it still tastes very good. People who are expecting the taste of corn-fed (btw, cows can’t really digest corn very well – they aren’t made for it) might not like it. It’s like eggs. I know a lady who preferred store-bought eggs over mine because mine tasted too “eggy.” :)

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