Organic produce is no healthier or nutritious, finds review

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Organic foods Pesticide Nutrition

Organic produce is no healthier or nutritious
Organic produce offers no benefits over conventional farming methods when it comes to nutrition and health, according to the findings of a new wide ranging review of the evidence.

The new review – published in Annals of Internal Medicine​ – analysed data from more than 200 published nutrient analysis studies and human trials, finding that there is generally no difference in nutritional value or risk for bacterial contamination between organic and conventional foods.

The research team, led by Crystal Smith-Spangler of Stanford University, said their findings suggest consumption of organic fruits and vegetables has no benefit over conventional foods in terms of improving health.

"Some believe that organic food is always healthier and more nutritious,"​ said Smith-Spangler. "We were a little surprised that we didn't find that."

Dr Dena Bravata, senior author of the review added: "There isn't much difference between organic and conventional foods, if you're an adult and making a decision based solely on your health."

The team did find that organic food consumption reduced exposure to any detectable pesticide residues by around 30%, but noted that pesticide levels were generally within the allowable limits for safety anyway.

The researchers said their aim is to educate people, not to discourage them from making organic purchases: "If you look beyond health effects, there are plenty of other reasons to buy organic instead of conventional,"​ said Bravata.

“Consumers may choose to purchase organic foods for other reasons besides nutrition and food safety, such as concern for animal welfare, the environment, or preferences in taste,"​ added Smith-Spangler.

Organic evidence?

Organic foods are often twice as expensive as their conventionally grown counterparts, said the authors.

Though there is a common perception — perhaps based on price alone — that organic foods are better for you than non-organic ones, the authors noted that there is an open question as to whether they have added health benefits.

Bravata said that the evidence to back the supposed and often presumed benefits of organic consists of a "confusing body of studies, including some that were not very rigorous, appearing in trade publications."

"This was a ripe area in which to do a systematic review,"​ said Smith-Spangler.

Review details

Smith-Spangler and her colleagues conducted the systematic review (found in full here​) of 17 human studies and 223 studies of nutrient and contaminant levels in unprocessed foods including fruits, vegetables, grains, milk, eggs, chicken, pork, and meat.

The team compared the health, nutritional, and safety characteristics of organic and conventional foods, finding that the published literature “lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods.”

After analyzing the data, they found found little significant difference in health benefits between organic and conventional foods.

No consistent differences were seen in the vitamin content of organic products, and only one nutrient — phosphorus — was significantly higher in organic versus conventionally grown produce. Smith-Spangler and her colleagues said that because few people have phosphorous deficiency, this has little clinical significance.

There was also no difference in protein or fat content between organic and conventional milk, though the team did find weak evidence of the nutritional superiority of organic foods in that organic produce contained significantly higher levels of total phenolic compounds, which have antioxidant properties, and that organic milk and chicken contained higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

While researchers found that organic produce is 30% less likely to be contaminated with pesticides than conventional fruits and vegetables, the reviewers noted that organic foods are not necessarily 100% free of pesticides. In addition, the pesticide levels of all foods fell within the allowable safety limits, they said.

Source: Annals of Internal Medicine
Volume 157, Number 5, Pages 348-366, doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-157-5-201209040-00007
“Are Organic Foods Safer or Healthier Than Conventional Alternatives?: A Systematic Review”
Authors: Crystal Smith-Spangler, Margaret L. Brandeau, Grace E. Hunter, J. Clay Bavinger, Maren Pearson, et al

Related news

Show more

Related products

show more

Download the Blue Food Innovation Summit Brochure

Download the Blue Food Innovation Summit Brochure

Content provided by Rethink Events Ltd | 28-Mar-2024 | Application Note

The Blue Food Innovation Summit brings together leaders at the forefront of investing in and developing solutions for nature-positive, resilient aquaculture...

Related suppliers


Show more

Dean of Science at Stanford connected to Monsanto

Posted by David Jones,

Sharon Long the Dean of Science at Stanford was on the Board of Directors of Monsanto. That is why they did not include in the study what was in regular food vs NOT in organic food. Sad but true. Look it up

Report abuse

It's not what's not inside...

Posted by Edwina Cottino,

The argument is not that organic food is healthier for you in terms of its vitamin content. The point is that people want organic for what it does not contain I.e. chemicals, pesticides, anti-biotics and growth hormones. I like my food as close to nature as possible thanks.

Report abuse

The Rise of Scientific Fraud!

Posted by Dr. Paul Blake, ND,

More paid for science from big industry, just what we need to further destroy what was left of our trust in science.

Anyone today can hire a company like Design Write Incorporated as Wyeth Pharmaceuticals did in 1997 to knock out forty studies on women's hormone replacement therapy for Premarin and Prempro and place them in 18 different scientific journals. Or go through thousands of studies cherry picking till you get the results to prove big food and agricultures position in order to make money while the American public suffer and die.

Busted: Wyeth Used Ghostwriters To Place Over 40 "Scientific" Articles In Medical Journals, Natural News, Thursday, July 08, 2010 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
The Brainwashing Is Working, By Donald M. Petersen Jr., BS, HCD(hc), FICC(h), Publisher

Happy Healthy Trails
Doc Blake

Report abuse

Follow us


View more