Is Eating Organic Foods Healthier Or Not?

Organic food has generally been anywhere from twenty to one hundred percent more expensive than conventionally grown foods. However as the demand increases and automated farming tech gets better this will likely lead to dramatically lower prices.

However till that day arrives the price difference begs the question, is organic food healthier or not. This is actually not as easy a question to answer as one might think and depending on who you ask you will get broadly different opinions.

The reason is primarily due to the inconsistencies in the methodology of the scientific studies as well as lack of good data.

In a study done in 2010 covering fifty years of studies on organic food from 1958 to 2008 culled from over 98,000 articles concluded that “… evidence is lacking for nutrition-related health effects that result from the consumption of organically produced foodstuffs.”

However in an equally comprehensive study completed in 2014 at Newcastle University which was performed by an international team came to the conclusion that “… organic crops are up to sixty percent higher in a number of important anti-oxidants when compared with conventionally-grown ones.” Moreover the review went on to state that they found 50% lower amounts of harmful heavy metal contaminants including, cadmium, mercury and lead.

In a more recent study also carried out by Newcastle University in 2016 the scientists determined that both organic milk and meat contained around 50% more omega 3 fatty acids, which has been shown to be useful in the prevention of illnesses such as depression, cardiovascular disease, ADHD and Alzheimer’s, than conventionally produced products. The scientists also concluded that they are much lower in saturated fats as well

So which scientific studies should you believe? The most persuasive argument in my opinion for the disparity in conclusions from these studies and the past ones is the difference in information that was available. Professor Leifert from the School of Ecological Agriculture at Newcastle University notes, “Research in this area has been slow to take off the ground and we have far more data available to us now than five years ago.”

With the growth of the Internet and smart devices it makes sense that the information after 2010 would be a good deal more reliable compared to studies done pre-2008. Not only that but the structure of the studies themselves have actually developed as well. Again owing to the Internet a standardization has been set in place to make the methodology of studies done more disciplined so that to use a pun you are comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges.

According to Google CEO Eric Schmidt, “Since the very beginning of time until the year 2003 humankind created five exabytes of digital information. An exabyte is one billion gigabytes-or a 1 with eighteen zeroes after it. Right now, in the year 2010, the human race is generating five exabytes of information every two days. By the year 2013, the number will be five exabytes produced every ten minutes… It’s no wonder we’re exhausted.”

You might be tempted to conclude from the Newcastle study that there is a consensus inside of the scientific community that organic food is definitively better than it’s non-organic counterpart and that the argument has been settled, but you would be wrong again as there is even some contention over this more recent meta-analysis.

Tom Sanders, a professor of nutrition at King’s College in London, told the Guardian newspaper that the study was “sexed up,” and questions the methodology used by the researchers and claims that there have been broad conclusions drawn from the studies.

In addition there have been two other studies done using meta-analysis, one from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, published in 2009 and another from Stanford University which both determined that the nutrient levels in both organic and conventional farmed foods were similar.

Furthermore Marion Nestle, a professor of public health, nutrition and food studies from New York University published on her blog that one of the organizations involved with funding the research was the Sheepdrove Trust, which is an organization that funds research to promote organic and sustainable farming practices.

While others mentioned that the University of Kent study focused on the high levels of man made pesticides that were left on conventionally farmed agriculture but failed to study the natural pesticides such as rotenone and pyrethrin that are produced by plants and used on organic crops, as these can be potentially hazardous to human beings as well.

So the question remains is eating organic foods healthier? While the facts regarding whether there are advantages to consuming organic fruits, vegetables and meats, still appears debatable and inconclusive at best, what is clear is that eating a well-rounded diet containing lots of fruits and vegetables whether they are organic or not in order to protect against ailments such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure is a must. This the science is definitely clear about.