When you go to the store or farmer’s market, do you ever wonder if it’s worthwhile to spend more to buy organic produce? A study published this week in the British Journal of Nutrition answers: yes!
The researchers, from the department of ecological agriculture at Newcastle University (UK), did not themselves carry out any original research, but they conducted what is called a “meta-study”, in which they statistically analyzed 343 previous, original research studies on the subject.
What they concluded was that organic produce was superior to conventionally grown vegetables and fruits not only because they contained a much lower level of pesticide residue, but also because the organics contained significantly more antioxidants.
Antioxidants are classified into various types—such as the flavanones, the flavonols, and the anthocyanins—and the organic produce contained from 19% to 69% higher levels of the various antioxidants. Many scientific studies suggest that a diet rich in antioxidants lowers our risk for brain, eye, and cardiovascular disease, as well as cancer.
The study also showed a higher level of vitamins and minerals in the organics, and importantly, that the amount of pesticide residue was about four times lower in the organic products, and also a much lower level of the toxic heavy metal cadmium.
A Conflicting Earlier Study
This UK study is being well-received by scientists, and is being hailed as more thorough and accurate than a study from Stanford University released two years ago, that basically concluded that organic products were not much better than conventional. The Stanford study admitted that organics contained less pesticides, but said that the amount of pesticides typically contained in conventional products was relatively low anyways, and unlikely to cause problems.
Some scientists questioned whether the Stanford study had been unfairly influenced because Cargill, a huge agricultural conglomerate and the largest private company in the U.S., was a significant financial supporter of their study. There were even calls for Stanford to retract their publication, as it was widely felt that their conclusions were biased.
But controversies aside, pesticide ingestion has been strongly linked to neurologic diseases and cancer, and all scientists agree that the less pesticides we ingest, the better. This new study concludes that organics contain a higher level of antioxidants.
Some people avoid organics because they are more expensive. Organic farming requires much more labor than traditional farming that relies on chemicals to kill bugs and fertilizers to increase yields, so organic harvests are smaller. Organic farming doesn’t use chemicals that spoil our water supplies and contaminate our soil, so organic farming is ecologically better, and safer for farmers and field workers.
One of the most prominent nutritionists in the United States, Marion Nestle of New York University, says she buys organic because they are better for the environment and wants to avoid pesticides, and “if they are more nutritious, that’s a bonus”.
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