Organic food and nutrition – the debate should be over

In Community and Relationship, Diet, Nutrition and Recipes, Health and Nutrition by Living Now0 Comments

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by Andre Leu.   

Nutrition

There continues to be a debate about whether organic food is more nutritious than conventional produce. The nutrition levels of any produce grown in the same paddock can vary from year to year, as well as differences in different paddocks, soil types, cultivar varieties, the length of storage, type of preparation and many other factors.

This explains the variability of results in different comparison studies. The most effective method to resolve this is to do a Meta study that looks at all the suitable studies and averages them. This removes the variability and shows the trend.

This explains the variability of results in different comparison studies. The most effective method to resolve this is to do a Meta study that looks at all the suitable studies and averages them. This removes the variability and shows the trend.

The French Agency for Food Safety Study

The most extensive Meta study comparing organic and conventional foods was published by the French Agency for Food Safety (AFSSA). This was a long-term evaluation of all the credible published papers that was conducted by a team of more than 50 experts. It was an up-to-date exhaustive and critical evaluation of the nutritional quality of organic food.

The AFSSA study was published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Agronomy for Sustainable Development to ensure that it has met rigorous scientific standards.

The major conclusions in the AFFSA study were that:

  • organic plant products contain more dry matter (more nutrient dense) than conventional foods
  • organic plant products have higher levels of minerals
  • organic plant products contain more antioxidants such as phenols and salicylic acid (known to protect against cancers, heart disease and many other health problems)
  • organic animal products contain more polyunsaturated fatty acids (protect against heart disease)
  • carbohydrate, protein and vitamin levels are insufficiently documented to make a valid comparison
  • 94–100% of organic foods do not contain any pesticide residues
  • organic vegetables contain far less nitrates, about 50% less (high nitrate levels are linked to a range of health problems including diabetes and Alzheimer’s)
  • organic cereals contain similar levels of mycotoxins as conventional ones

The one comparison study between organic and conventional foods that has attracted the most media attention was conducted by the UK Food Standards Agency. This study concluded that there was no difference in nutrition levels and this was picked up by the press. However the conclusion actually contradicts the information provided in the study as it did find significant differences in favour of organic foods with many nutrients. The UK Food Standards Agency study found that the following minerals were higher in organic foods:

  • Copper 8.3%
  • Magnesium 7.1%
  • Phosphorous 6%
  • Potassium 2.5%
  • Sodium 8.7%
  • Sulphur 10.5%
  • Zinc 11.3%

Protein levels were 12.7% higher and beneficial polyunsaturated fatty acids in organic meat and dairy products were between 2.1% to 27.8% higher. Very significantly there were much higher levels of protective and disease-fighting antioxidants:

  • Phenolic compounds 13.2%
  • Beta-carotene 53.6%
  • Flavonoids 38.4%

Shown to have anti-cancer and other protective properties for our health and well-being. These phyto-nutrients have been shown to have major roles in preventing and reversing diseases such as heart disease and arterial diseases. They are important for preventing and reducing inflammatory and auto-immune diseases such as asthma and arthritis. Most significantly they are

These levels of protective antioxidants are consistent with those found in the AFSSA study and an earlier published Meta review of the scientific research by Dr Charles Benbrook. His study found that on average organic foods contain about one-third higher in antioxidants than comparable conventional produce.

Conclusion
The majority of credible Meta studies on nutrition values of organic food and health clearly point to the multiple nutritional benefits of organic food. Given that this information has come from reviews of hundreds of studies, the debate on the nutritional values of organic food should be over. People who buy organic food for its nutritional value are making the right decision.

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