Are Organics More Nutritious? Maybe Not.

Assorted Grocery Products Including Vegetables Fruits Wine Bread

I’m a big fan of organics and GreenFood here in China, but my concerns are more for food safety and health than for nutritional reasons. Many people assume that organics are more nutritious, but that debate is far from settled. In fact, the best recent evidence shows that most organic food has the same nutrition as non-organic. The most recent evidence is from the most comprehensive review so far on this subject, run by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, called Nutritional quality of organic foods: a systematic review — American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and published in August. They reviewed every major published article over the last 50 years, and their findings may surprise you:

Results: From a total of 52,471 articles, we identified 162studies (137 crops and 25 livestock products); 55 were of satisfactoryquality. In an analysis that included only satisfactory-qualitystudies, conventionally produced crops had a significantly highercontent of nitrogen, and organically produced crops had a significantlyhigher content of phosphorus and higher titratable acidity.No evidence of a difference was detected for the remaining 8of 11 crop nutrient categories analyzed. Analysis of the morelimited database on livestock products found no evidence ofa difference in nutrient content between organically and conventionallyproduced livestock products.

Conclusions: On the basis of a systematic review of studiesof satisfactory quality, there is no evidence of a differencein nutrient quality between organically and conventionally producedfoodstuffs. The small differences in nutrient content detectedare biologically plausible and mostly relate to differencesin production methods.

There are more links from the UK Food Standards Agency here, as well as PDFs of the above literature. There is also an excellent review of organics and food safety from one of my favorite sites, the Hong Kong Center for Food Safety. They also state evidence that doesn’t show much nutritional difference between organics and non-organics.

Bottom Line?

This article is the most comprehensive look so far at this issue, and the results are strong. However, there are many other reasons why people may choose organic, including environmental protection as well as better handling of bred animals. I choose organics mostly for food safety concerns. There are many concerns regarding not just proper chemical/pesticide use, but also improper wastewater irrigation, and food storage and handling. So I feel more comfortable buying organic or GreenFood from larger supermarkets as I assume there is much more government/private oversight of these products.

Read More…

Read more previous posts on organics.

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2 thoughts on “Are Organics More Nutritious? Maybe Not.”

    1. Yeah, I should clarify that. I do worry about food safety in terms of excess pesticides as well as improper storage or handling which can set up bacterial infections, not to mention wastewater irrigation issues which may cause contamination of foods with industrial chemicals. So, I think any farm that has a lot of governmental oversight or private industry checking is better than any small farm; so I would always prefer organic or GreenFood certified foods, assuming those foods are indeed being monitored more closely.

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