Is Organic Food Healthier than Conventional Food?
What’s the bottom line: how healthy is organic food compared to conventionally farmed foods?From EatingWell®
Here’s why you can feel good about organic: USDA–certified organic means your food is produced without synthetic pesticides, bioengineering or radiation; animals are raised without antibiotics or growth hormones. But the debate about whether organic foods are healthier for you continues. And two new studies add to the controversy.
In a recent study in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, researchers fed organically and conventionally grown carrots to mice. Unlike most studies that simply compare nutrient and contaminant levels in organic versus conventional foods, this study looked at the specific effects of eating organic versus conventional. It found that mice who ate organic had an increase in regulatory T cells, which are key for immune function. On the flip side, very few studies focusing on organic versus conventional foods are of people who eat these foods. A recent review of studies published in the Annals of Internal Medicine took these points into consideration, concluding that there’s “limited evidence for the superiority of organic foods.”
The authors did find that organic produce contains more phosphorus, but you’d have to be near total starvation to be phosphorus deficient. Another bummer: bacterial contamination (like Campylobacter and E. coli) may be more likely in organic foods. The report wasn’t all negative: the bacteria in organic chicken and pork are less likely to be antibiotic-resistant. Conventional produce also has a 30 percent higher risk of pesticide residue. And a few studies suggest organic milk and chicken may deliver more good-for-you omega-3 fats.
Bottom line? More research is needed, but if you worry about antibiotic-resistant bacteria or pesticides, buy organic.