Researchers who analyzed more than 200 studies say they did not find strong evidence that organic foods are more nutritious or carry fewer health risks than conventional foods. They came to this conclusion despite determining that eating organic foods can reduce the risk of pesticide exposure by 30 percent or more.
The Stanford University team announced its findings in the Sept. 4 edition of the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. They found no substantial differences in the vitamin content of organic products compared to conventional ones, and no differences in protein or fat content between organic and conventional milk. Some of the studies they reviewed did show significantly higher levels of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids in organic milk. In addition, organic chicken and pork was found less likely to be contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Significantly, the researchers found that organic produce had a 30 percent lower risk of pesticide contamination. The “2011 Attitudes and Beliefs Study” by the Organic Trade Association (OTA) found reducing exposure to pesticides and avoiding antibiotics in the food supply as top reasons why consumers choose organic food.
“Consumers seeking to minimize their exposure to pesticide residues will find that foods bearing the USDA Organic label are the gold standard,” said OTA executive director Christine Bushway.
Of the 237 studies reviewed by the Stanford researchers, only 17 compared how people fared while eating an organic diet as opposed to a conventional one. The other studies examined specific properties of the foods.
“Are Organic Foods Safer or Healthier than Conventional Alternatives?” by C. Smith-Spangler et al., Ann Intern Med, 9/4/12
“Little Evidence of Health Benefits from Organic Foods, Stanford Study Says” by Michelle Brandt, Stanford School of Medicine, 9/3/12
“Stanford Research Confirms Health Benefits Driving Consumers to Organic,” Organic Trade Association, 9/4/12
“Study Questions How Much Better Organic Food Is,” Associated Press, 9/4/12