We’ve all heard it. Buy organic and be healthier! Well, there’s a new study out and the $29 billion organic produce industry might not like it. The study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found little evidence of health benefits from organic food. The researchers looked at 200 peer-reviewed studies that looked at the differences between organic and conventional food or the people who eat it. NPR reports, “One study, for instance, looked at whether eating organic food while pregnant would influence the likelihood of eczema and other allergic conditions among children, and another looked at whether eating organic meat would influence the risk of a Campylobacter infection, a bacterial food-borne illness.” The researchers looked at the studies and found no clear benefits. They suggest that more research is needed.
There was one study that found that organic tomatoes had higher levels of antioxidants versus their conventional counterparts. However, that study was of one vegetable in one feel. When it comes to nutrition, vegetable can vary a lot. NPR states, “One carrot in the grocery store, for instance, may have two or three times more beta carotene (which gives us vitamin A) than its neighbor. That’s due to all kinds of things: differences in the genetic makeup of different varieties, the ripeness of the produce when it was picked, even the weather.”
So, does this matter? Well, a lot of people eat organic because they’re worried about pesticides. The study found that the vast majority of conventionally grown food did not exceed federal limits on pesticide residue.
BUT, the evidence the researchers looked at may not give us the whole picture. The human studies they looked at only followed people for two years or less, which is a short amount of time in terms of scientific study. That’s not enough time to determine long term health benefits. Also, many of these studies have a hard time uncovering the effects our environment plays on our health. Yes, these test subjects didn’t show health benefits, but there might be another reason for that, something in their environment for example.
So the long-term effects of the pesticides used on non-organic produce have not been sufficiently studied. The USDA’s own tests show that most non-organic produce contain residual pesticides even after washing. Many people would say that common sense dictates that consuming a lot of pesticides can’t be good, but the truth is, we just don’t know.
If you are going to buy organic, you don’t need to buy EVERYTHING organic. Some types of produce don’t absorb as much pesticides as others due to their structure. Below is a list of the “Dirty Dozen” – those fruits and vegetables with highest pesticide load, making them the most important to buy organic versions – or to grow them organically yourself. This list is compiled every year by the non-profit Environmental Working Group. They’ve also listed two items of “special concern” (they may contain organophosphate insecticides, which EWG characterizes as “highly toxic”) and the “Clean Fifteen” – produce that’s ok to buy non-organic. You can eat print this list out to take to the grocery store with you!
So, Rockheads, what do you think? Many people just “feel” better when they buy organic. Do you? Will you continue to buy organic? Tell me about it in the comments.