A new study found no evidence of a difference in nutrient quality between organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs. The study findings were published today in an online version of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Until now, the nutritional benefit of eating organically vs. conventionally grown produce was not well-documented. Earlier reviews concluded that organically produced crops have a superior nutrient content but these findings have not been consistent.
With global demand of organic products estimated at almost $50 billion and increasing annually, researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine attempted to answer this question.
Researchers conducted a systematic review of 55 peer-reviewed articles that spanned a period of 50 years (1958 – 2008). The study focused on crops but also included a more limited analysis on livestock products.
The review showed that conventionally produced crops had significantly higher nitrogen content while organically produced crops had significantly higher phosphorus content. However, researchers theorized that this difference was attributed to differences in fertilizer use. Otherwise, no difference was observed in the remaining 8 of 11 crop categories analyzed.
A motivation for many to purchase organic produce is the strict controlled use of chemicals. However, the study was limited to analyzing just nutrient content. “Production methods, especially those that regulate the use of chemical fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides may also affect the chemical content of foodstuffs,” said Alan Dangour, one of the report’s authors.
The Bottom Line
Given that two thirds of the population is obese or overweight, the issue of eating organically vs. conventionally grown produce is somewhat misplaced. The vast majority of Americans just don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables – much less organically grown ones.
The push for eating organic may not be motivated so much by higher nutrient content but by the lack of pesticides. Evidence suggests that ingesting these toxic compounds over time has a detrimental effect on the body. The researchers conceded that this was neither taken into account nor the purpose of the study.
Like exercise, eating healthy requires some effort. To make this easier, we recommend by adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet. For now, forget about whether they are organic or not. The key is to purchase the produce that is most appealing to you and your family so that it gets eaten.
David H. Rahm, M.D. is the founder and medical director of The Wellness Center, a medical clinic located in Long Beach, CA. Dr. Rahm is also president and medical director of VitaMedica. Dr. Rahm is one of a select group of conventional medical doctors who have education and expertise in functional medicine and nutritional science. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Rahm has published articles in the plastic surgery literature and educated physicians about the importance of good peri-operative nutrition.