New study finds health benefits of organic food

Photo Credit: nociveglia Photo Credit: nociveglia

The study entitled “Higher antioxidant concentrations and less cadmium and pesticide residues in 2 organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses” by Barański et. al shows that organic crops have higher antioxidant levels and less cadmium and pesticide residues than the non-organic crops.  Researchers conducted a meta-analysis on 342 peer reviewed publications looking at the health benefits of organic agriculture. 

Specifically, they found that organic crops had significantly higher antioxidants than conventional crops, including 19% higher levels of phenolic acids, 69% higher levels of flavanones, 28% higher levels of stilbenes, 26% higher levels of flavones, 50% higher levels of flavonols, and 51% higher levels of anthocyanines.  These antioxidants have been linked to decreases in chronic disease risks such as cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and certain cancers.  The levels at which they found antioxidant benefits in organic crops show that switching from a conventional to an organic diet result in a 20-40% (and for some compounds more than 60%) increase in crop based antioxidant intake without a simultaneous increase in calorie consumption.  This means that the amount of extra antioxidants an individual would consume every day by eating the recommended five servings of organic instead of conventional fruit and vegetable would be equal to one to two whole servings of conventional fruits and vegetables. 

The study also found that pesticide residues were less common in organic versus conventional foods, and that organic foods had lower toxic metal levels than their conventional counterparts.  Pesticide residues were four times more common on conventional than organic crops.  Organic crops also had on average 48% lower cadmium levels than conventional crops.  Cadmium is a highly toxic metal that can cause kidney failure, bone softening, and liver damage.  Cadmium can accumulate in the body, so even at low levels chronic exposure can be dangerous.  Its toxicity is such that it is one of only three toxic metal contaminants (the other two being lead and mercury) for which the European Commission has set maximum residue levels (MRL) in foods.

The findings of this study strongly support the health benefits of organic food.  See our full press release here!