There’s been a lot of controversy and publicity since this month’s Annals of Internal Medicine, hit the stands. A new meta-study, ” Are Organic Foods Safer or Healthier Than Conventional Alternatives? : A Systematic Review” examined all the research published in the medical literature from 1996 through 2009 that compared organic and conventionally grown food. There were 223 such studies that compared these foods for nutrient and contaminant content. The results found there were no significant differences in vitamin content between organic and nonorganic foods. Of the 11 other nutrients studied, none were significantly different once adjustments were made for study quality.
Not everybody is convinced though. Readers have pointed out that the article does not actually say that organic foods are no better or healthier than industrially processed foods. In fact, the study actually says, Â¨Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.” Also a fact: The report’s opening statement says the tested organic produce carried a 30 percent lower risk of exposure to pesticide residues, and that “detectable pesticide residues were found in 7% of organic produce samples…and 38% of conventional produce samples.”
While arguments could be made that more land is required to grow organic food, and that it’s currently too expensive for all but the wealthy, others find different benefits: “I think we’re missing the point, though. The benefit of organic food is that it tends to help us to eat more healthily. But it’s the focus toward fruits, vegetables and less processed foods themselves that’s the benefit, not the lack of pesticides. My eating habits changed because I was eating a wider variety of healthy foods — and they tasted good. That’s not because of how they were fertilized as much as it was that they were fresh and nonindustrial. Once you’ve tasted a home-grown tomato, then the ones you buy in the store are never tolerable again. People who try locally grown produce are often amazed at the difference in taste. It turned out that I liked some vegetables more than I knew, and that helped me to want to eat them more.” Dr. Aaron E. Carroll, associate professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine and the director of the university’s Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research.