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New study says organic food is not healthier--is that really true?

By Nicci Micco, July 30, 2009 - 12:00pm

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Nicci asks: What, if anything, do you buy organic?

COMMENTS POSTEDsort icon

Thanks Nicci for your article. I am a Dietitian living in California and I often get this exact question. I believe that most (not all) studies conducted on organic vs conventional only look at the macro/micro/phyto nutrient content of the food and not the larger web of health organic produce promotes. Pesticide content, impact to the environment are often not considered within these studies. Health is more than just nutrients.

Christine Craig, Sacramento, Ca

Anonymous

09/01/2009 - 11:51am

The bottom line is less about nutrional values of organic vs non-organic and more about the simple question of why eat pesticides when you don't have to.

Bobbie Rich, Norwalk, CT

Anonymous

09/01/2009 - 11:52am

What's the big picture here? Citing a few meaningless counterpoints doesn't disprove the Hygiene and Tropical Medicine study. I have reason to believe TOC plays up studies to its advantage while disregarding contrary evidence (always check the credibility of the source). After all, they have a dog in this fight. Besides, I've read more articles debunking the organic-as-more-nutritious myth than supporting it.

As a nutritionist, have you done a quantiative analysis?

Anonymous

03/18/2010 - 8:57pm

As a follow-up, consider that in a 20/20 interview with John Stossel, Katherine DiMatteo of the Organic Trade Association was twice asked if organic food is more nutritional than conventional crops. She twice answered, "It's as nutritious as any other food." Not exactly supportive of the "more nutritious" myth.

Also, Joseph D. Rosen, Ph.D. (emeritus professor of Food Toxicology at Rutgers University and a scientific advisor to the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH)) analyzed a pro-organic report by Charles Benbrook and colleagues at the Organic Trade Association's Organic Center. Dr. Rosen found the data was selectively chosen and presented to "prove" the "more nutritious" point. Not surprising, considering the OTA is a trade organization with a dog in the fight.

http://www.acsh.org/publications/pubID.1713/pub_detail.asp

What say you of this?

Anonymous

03/18/2010 - 9:14pm

Go in the fields of each...the organic is an Eden full of life. Go in a conventional field (if you dare) the "soil" is dirt, the air smells, it is a ghost town and the plants look like mutants (and probably are-gmo's).

Anonymous

03/18/2010 - 11:10pm

Chemical fertilizers usage became common use after WWII, when surplus Nitrogen, Phospurus and Potasium from bomb making factories needed a new home, somebody quickly realised that tomatoes grew bigger and crops where more abundant with the use of this chemicals, unfortunately decades later whe are suffering the consequences via chronic-degenerarive diseases , people who eat mostly organic and excersice in moderation are rarely sick, for the real world supplementation with quality vitamins makes up for the poor nutrition of todays fruits and vegetables, USANA Health Sciences (www.corenutrition.usana.com ) is a company devoted to pharmaceutical grade supplements, is the supplement of choice of many athletes including Olympians and its also widely used by many physicians as preventive medicine.

jr_sesteaga

03/19/2010 - 2:03am

vERY HELPFUL ARTICLE

Anonymous

03/19/2010 - 9:48am

Most studies only look a certian aspects of organic vs convential foods. Such that for the studies mentioned above organic food may contain more Zinc and other minor nutrients but the article doesn't say what nutrients are higher in convential foods than in organic. There is usually a balancing effect between the two, organic is high in one nutrient yet convential is high in another.

Also, organic food is sprayed with pesticides and most likely is sprayed more times throughout the year than convential foods because organic pesticides are not as effective as convential pesticides. So even though organic pesticides are usually more safe on a unit per unit basis compared to convential pesticides, more organic spray is required to get the same effect as convential spray. This doesn't make the pesticides more safe if they are used in such large quantities. To go along with a previous comment on pesticides in the environment, copper sulfate is used as an organic spray and is one of the most oftenly used in organics. There have been some cases in organic agriculture where so much copper is used that the copper content in the soil reaches toxic levels and plant growth becomes hindered due to copper toxicity. Organic does not equal pesticide free!

If you want to eat healthier, eating local is the best way because as soon as the fruit or vegetable is picked there are processes in the fruit/vegetable that start to degrade the nutrients, some at astonishing rates. So a carrot from across the states will have many less nutrients by the time it reaches you because of travel time than one harvested locally because it doesn't have to take as much time to reach you. The combinations of what you eat are also important because of the interactions happening between the food in your stomach can hinder or benefit nutrient uptake into your body. One such beneficial interaction is drinking orange juice and eating broccoli will increase your iron uptake more than just eating broccoli alone.

So eat locally over organiclly!!!

Anonymous

03/19/2010 - 1:42pm

Nicci,

I am curious about how much research you have done regarding the effects of pesticides and other destructive practices of conventional farming upon the soil, air and water quality - the Earth in general.

Too, organic farmers, because they care to, follow strict ethical guidelines regarding how fresh and therefore nutritious their produce is. Most importantly, they care about what the broad ramifications of their farming practices have upon the Earth and all her lifeforms.

The Earth will eventually rid human kind to right herself ; the Earth will eventually regenerate but your progeny will be gone. There is ample scientific evidence in place supporting this.

There is a critical, overdue need for human beings to practice sustainability, if indeed we want to see our progeny living here.

Sadly, most conventional farmers do not remotely practice this as the main goal with all business, including industrialized farming, is profit without ethical consideration.

It is quite doable to achieve short term goals like a food budget you can live with and practice sustainability at the same time.

I don't know about you, but I'd like to see my grandchildren and beyond be able to enjoy and take care of this beautiful Mother of ours, Earth.

Anonymous

03/19/2010 - 3:33pm

I work in the Ag Indusry, to be more specific I sell seed to farmers but I have really been looking into eating a diet with more all natural and organic in it. The conclusions I come up with is that so much of the conventional produce is harvested so early it cannot aqiure enough photosynthesis to finishing it's developement of nutrients or flavor or sugars. These are obtained in the last part of a crop maturing (very late). Many of the organics are harvested at a more mature stage so they would have those things missing from a conventional counterpart. Also I have noticed that in some convantionally grown crops thed application of certain pesticides can set back growth so maybe that has something to do with nutrient developement. Also are these studies comparing produce raised from the same area, harvested on the same day, etc.... I have seen so much skewed data in my career because these things that some people think aren't significant really are, and make huge differences in results. Another thing we must keep in mind is that we will always have to have pesticides and commercial fertilizers and all those things associated with modern day Agriculture, as the world populations continue to grow and people continue to become less self sustaining everyday we need to feed them and those products will play a large role in doing so.

Anonymous

03/20/2010 - 11:11am

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