By Maylin Rodriguez-Paez, RN
However, recently scientists at Stanford University challenged this notion with a new study concluding that organic foods are not healthier than conventional foods.
The researchers reviewed 240 studies. They compared the nutrient content, pesticide residues, and bacterial contamination of organic and conventional foods.
After analyzing the study ourselves, we determined that the Stanford scientists and the resulting media reports got a lot of it all wrong.
Organic Foods Contain FEWER PesticidesThe Stanford scientists actually found that organic foods have a 30% lower risk of pesticide contamination when compared to conventional foods.1 This is very important.
Pesticides are all over the world, damaging humans, animals, and the environment. Pesticide exposure has been linked to autism, poor sperm quality, neuropathy, and more.2-4
Beyond that, some of the pesticides used in our foods are believed to disrupt normal hormone function.4
The Stanford research study also demonstrated that children who ate organic foods had fewer pesticides in their urine.
Do any of you want to argue that eating foods contaminated with pesticides is a good idea? We didn’t think so!
Organic Foods Contain MORE Omega-3 FatsThe Stanford study also confirmed that organic milk contained more omega-3 fatty acids than its conventional counterpart.
Considering that the average American diet is deficient in omega-3s, it’s important that we get as much as possible.5
A higher intake of omega-3 fat correlates with better measures of health, such as improved cardiovascular function and mood.6 However, a lack of omega-3s may increase the risk for disease-causing inflammation.7
Organic Foods Contain LESS Dangerous BacteriaThe Stanford scientists also discovered that organic foods contain less antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which are the ones that can develop into superbugs. These superbugs are very hard to treat and are becoming more prevalent throughout the United States and the world.
Superbugs evolve from the overuse of antibiotics in livestock. So if you eat conventional meat, you’re exposing yourself to dangerous treatment-resistant bacteria. And inside your intestines, the dangerous bacteria deplete your normal flora — the good bacteria living in your gut.
Your normal flora is really important for overall health. You need these good bacteria for proper digestion and absorption of nutrients as well as supporting your immune system. Depleted normal flora can lead to things like obesity, asthma, and allergies.8
What's Your Take on Eating Organic?To be completely honest, we’re not exactly sure why the scientists at Stanford concluded that organics aren’t worth your time. It could be a number of factors at play.
What we do know is this: For the reasons outlined above, we still think buying and eating organic is unquestionably the healthier way to go.
Did the reporting on this research change your own feelings about buying organic? What do you think?
- Ann Intern Med. 2012 Sep 4;157(5):348-66.
- Environ Health Perspect. 2012 Jul;120(7):944-51.
- Environ Health Perspect. 2003 Sep;111(12):1478-84.
- Environ Health Perspect. 2012 February; 120(2): 316–320.
- PLoS Med. 2009 Apr 28;6(4):e1000058. Epub 2009 Apr 28.
- Cardiovasc Psychiatry Neurol. 2009;2009:362795.
- Annu Rev Nutr. 2012 Aug 21;32:203-27.
- J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2011 May;127(5):1087-94; quiz 95-6.