Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Organic produce healthier ? Not necessarily

Packer Daily

Organic produce healthier? Not necessarily

If consumers are paying a big premium for organic produce, they might reconsider after hearing about a recent study.
Stanford University researchers say there is little scientific evidence that organic foods offer fewer health risks or are more nutritious than conventional food.
“There isn’t much difference between organic and conventional foods, if you’re an adult and making a decision based solely on your health,” Dena Bravata, senior author of a paper study comparing the nutrition of organic and non-organic foods, said in a news release.
The research results were published in the Sept. 4 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.
The research group, led by Bravata, a senior affiliate with Stanford’s Center for Health Policy, and Crystal Smith-Spangler, an instructor in the school’s Division of General Medical Disciplines, reviewed 17 studies with humans and 223 studies of nutrient and contaminant levels in food. The study found that the risk for contamination with detectable pesticide residues was lower among organic than conventional produce, but differences in risk for exceeding maximum allowed limits were small. The research also found that E. coli contamination risk did not differ between organic and conventional produce.
The research did say that consumption of organic food may reduce exposure to pesticide residues.
Bravata’s patients asked repeatedly about the benefits of organic products and she didn’t know how to advise them, according to the release.
After examining the studies, researchers found “little significant difference” in health benefits between organic and conventional foods, according to the release. The review found no consistent differences in the vitamin content of organic products, and only phosphorus was markedly higher in organic versus conventionally grown produce.
Despite what Bravata called “tons of analyses,” researchers were unable to single out particular fruits and vegetables for which organic was the consistently healthier choice, according to the release.
“Some believe that organic food is always healthier and more nutritious,” Smith-Spangler said in the release. “We were a little surprised that we didn’t find that.”
Sales of organic foods have grown from $3.6 billion in 1997 to $24.4 billion in 2011, according to the release.
Bravata said the aim of the research is to educate consumers, not discourage organic purchases.

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