Fans of organic foods have claimed for years that organic is better, more nutritious, and less prone to contamination with pesticides. Opponents of the movement say that these foods are no better, just more expensive than conventional ones. It’s a hotly debated question – just ask the people outside Whole Foods! So, what does the science say?
Well, according to a new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, it looks like it’s a split decision.
According to this report, which reviewed over 4 decades worth of evidence, there’s little evidence to show that organic foods are actually more nutritious than conventional ones. However, they may reduce exposure to pesticides and resistant bacteria.
The team from Stanford University evaluated 17 studies, comparing organic diets with conventional diets in humans, and another 223 studies that compared nutrient and contaminant levels in organic versus conventional foods. Overall, the vitamin and nutrient levels were generally similar in both types of foods.
With respect to safety, however, organic produce was 30% less likely to be contaminated with pesticides. Neither type of food had pesticide levels above the government-mandated safety levels. Conventional chicken and pork were 33% more likely to contain antibiotic-resistant bacteria. However, the risk for contamination with pathogenic (i.e. disease causing) bacteria like E. Coli did not differ between conventional and organic foods.
The authors of this paper concluded: “The evidence does not suggest marked health benefits from consuming organic versus conventional foods.” The topic of which kind of food tastes better was not studied! Now you can decide…. More on this story here.