Organic Foods Contain Similar Nutrients but Less Pesticides, Study Says

Article excerpt

From a nutritional standpoint, are organic foods worth the added cost?

No, according to the authors of a meta-analysis study released today in the Annals of Internal Medicine. After examining the findings of more than 200 previously published studies, researchers from Stanford University concluded that there is no "strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods."

The meta-analysis did find, however, that organic fruits and vegetables are significantly less likely to contain pesticide residues than conventionally grown produce and that organic chicken and pork are less likely to be contaminated with antibiotic- resistant bacteria.

U.S. sales of organic food -- produce and grains grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers and animals raised without the routine use of antibiotics or growth hormones -- have skyrocketed in recent years, jumping from $3.6 billion in 1997 to $26.7 billion in 2010. Depending on where you purchase your groceries, organic foods can cost up to twice as much as their conventional counterparts.

The findings of this meta-analysis, therefore, have economic as well as health ramifications. But although its authors conclude that organic foods are probably not worth the added cost, the study itself seems to be more equivocal.

Here are the major findings:

* There were no consistent differences in the nutrient content of organic and conventional foods. Organic foods did contain more phosphorus, but as the study's authors point out, that finding was "unlikely to be clinically significant because near-total starvation is needed to produce dietary phosphorus deficiency."

* The Stanford researchers did find higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which may help prevent heart disease, in organic milk and chicken. They also found that organic produce contained higher levels of phenols, which have been associated with a reduced risk of cancer. But, added the researchers, these differences between organic and conventional foods varied widely from study to study, so the results must be viewed with caution.

* Organic produce was much less likely to be contaminated with pesticides than conventional produce. …