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Organic IS Healthier…and Here’s Why

Organic IS Healthier…and Here’s Why - by Emily Main

Buy organics because they’re free of pesticides, counteract global warming, and contain more of some key—but overlooked—nutrients. RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—A new analysis of previous research studies has found that organic food, and food produced using pesticides and other chemicals, are of comparable nutritional quality—implying that buying organic because it’s perceived to be healthier isn’t justified. The report is slated for publication in the September issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and is available now on the journal’s website. Critics contend that the study’s flaws invalidate its findings. The analysis was done by a research team at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and funded by the UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA), a government agency similar in some ways to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. THE DETAILS: The researchers analyzed 162 studies that compared the density of 11 nutrients in organic and chemically grown produce, and two nutrients in dairy and meat products. They found no difference between organic and chemical methods in the nutritional value of meat and dairy products, but they found that chemically farmed produce had higher levels of nitrogen, while organic produce had higher levels of phosphorous and titratable acidity (which relates to flavor). In all other respects, the two types of produce were found to be no different in their content of vitamin C, phenolic compounds, magnesium, calcium, potassium, zinc, total soluble solids (the level of sugars found in the produce), and copper. WHAT IT MEANS: A deeper dive into the research reveals that the healthy rep of organic food still stands. For one thing, the analysis missed a few key nutrients, says Charles Benbrook, PhD, chief scientist at The Organic Center, a nonprofit group that publishes research on health issues and organic food. “The FSA team did not include total antioxidant capacity among the nutrients studied,” he says in a response to their research. Benbrook and his colleagues published similar literature in March 2008, using many of the same criteria as the authors of this study. “The Organic Center’s findings are similar for some of the nutrients analyzed by the FSA team,” he says, but in his review of 97 studies, organics came out far greater in antioxidant measures in seven out of eight studies. Organics were also found to be higher in a class of potent antioxidants called total polyphenols, which include the compounds found in blueberries and pomegranates. The current study looked at phenolic compounds, a broader collection of agents found in all fruits, rather than polyphenols specifically. Benbrook also feels that the FSA researchers weren’t rigorous enough in their selection of which studies to examine because they didn’t consider how the food used in the studies was collected. Even two chemically grown tomatoes from the same farm, one taken right off the vine and the other bought at a grocery store, could show different nutrient profiles. So it’s impossible to make a comparison unless you’re certain both types of produce were treated in the same way. Whether you buy organic because you think it’s healthier for you or because it’s better for the planet, here are 10 reasons you should keep doing so: #1. Pesticides used on crops have been linked to Parkinson’s disease in farm workers. #2. Children who eat organic diets have lower levels of pesticide residues, which are known to hinder neurological development, in their bodies. #3. Organic farms are more effective at removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than conventional farms are, and therefore help counteract global warming. #4. Organic farms keep pesticides and fertilizers out of your drinking water. #5. Organic food is produced without genetically modified organisms, whose health effects have barely been studied. Whether you buy organic because you think it’s healthier for you or because it’s better for the planet, here are 12 reasons you should keep doing so (cont'd): #6. Organic crops aren’t fertilized with sewage sludge, which is used on conventional crops and can be tainted with heavy metals and pharmaceutical residues. #7. As this study found, conventional crops have elevated nitrogen levels, which Benbrook says, “are regarded by most scientists as a public health hazard because of the potential for cancer-causing nitrosamine compounds to form in the human GI tract.” #8. Organics taste better. In fact, this study found that organics have higher levels of titratable acids, which are linked to better taste. #9. Organic meat and dairy products come from animals that were treated humanely and were fed grass. #10. Those organic animal products, from animals that weren’t doused with unnecessary antibiotics, don’t contribute to the problem of antibiotic resistance. Source:
http://www.rodale.com/organic-foods-and-nutrition

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