HealthVitamins and Minerals

Junk Science? Number 32: Organic food ‘won’t make you healthier’ say experts.

Dr Dena Bravata and colleagues at Stamford University Medical Centre in California have have just published their research findings on organic food in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Their research? They ‘sifted through thousands of papers’ while comparing people who have lived on organic food with those who eat the mainstream stuff. They came up with two conclusions in this ‘largest ever study’.

  1. That organic food was no ‘healthier or nutritious’ than mass market stuff, and
  2. That even organic food contains pesticides (although admittedly at a lower level).

Notwithstanding that the EU started a 12 million Euro study a few years back actually planting organic field and non-organic ones to measure the relative nutritional content, or that the French conducted a similar side-by-side study with controls and both found higher levels of beneficial natural compounds in the organic version, there is this seemingly thrown away bit in the report about pesticides, which we will come to in a minute.

At CANCERactive we covered both of the above research studies in Cancer Watch, our cancer research centre. Professor Carlo Liefert, one of the leaders of the first study is also a patron of our charity. But we have also covered a report a few years ago on how the American regulators were going to allow certain pescticides to be used with organic food and raise the bar on testing the products. Various US consumer groups expressed concern at the time complaining that this would be the end of organic produce in America. So we are not in the slightest surprised by research showing that ‘American organic food had pesticide in it. The Soil Association agrees with us and also says that these findings have little to do with food in Britain.

But, there’s a second point. As we have concluded before, if your soil is depleted it doesn’t matter what you grow on it, the results will be roughly the same if you analyse for vitamins and minerals. Remember the American Senate has already warned of soil depletion in America and advised the population to take supplements (and that was in 1934).

However, the conclusions of several studies in Europe have shown that while minerals are no higher, and vitamins only slightly higher, the real benefits come in ‘natural compounds’ like the pigments – and indole3 carbinol, carotenes, resveratrol, quercitin, anthocyanins. Did the researchers look in depth in this area? A sprayed grape produces very little resveratrol; an organic grape produces rather a lot as it is more likely to come under fungal attack, and resveratrol is produced in response. Fact.

Which brings us to the thrown away point about pesticides. American ‘Organic’ produce is 30 per cent less likely to be contaminated with pesticides. The Soil Association would expect this figure to be nearer 100 per cent in the UK where our controls on our own produce (not necessarily imported produce) are much stricter.

So, pray tell us oh wise scientists, do you think that something having pesticides on it and in it, might be the very reason many of us grow our own or are prepared to pay more for the UK organic variety? By the way, we also covered research that prostate cancer (to name just one cancer) was linked to the presence of any of thirteen different chemicals often found in pesticides.

Still think ‘organic food won’t make you healthier’?

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