No evidence that organic is healthier – but more research needed

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Organic food

No evidence that organic is healthier – but more research needed
A new review of the existing research on the health effects of consuming organic foods found no evidence of health benefits – but again highlighted the need for more research.

The review, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, ​was conducted by researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who are the same as those who conducted a review that led to the same conclusion last year. In the earlier review, they examined 162 studies and found no evidence of nutritional benefits from organic foods.

However, in this latest review, they could only find 12 relevant studies, and the researchers lamented the ‘paucity of available data’.

“From a systematic review of the currently available published literature, evidence is lacking for nutrition-related health effects that result from the consumption of organically produced foodstuffs,”​ they concluded.

Of the 12 relevant studies, eight were human studies, including six clinical trials, and four were studies involving animals or human cell lines or serum.

Only one study suggested a health benefit from consuming organic food. The study suggested that there could be a reduced risk of eczema in infants fed organic dairy products “but the majority of the remaining studies showed no evidence of differences in nutrition-related health outcomes that result from exposure to organic or conventionally produced foodstuffs,”​ the authors wrote.

In response to the review’s publication, spokesperson for the Organic Trade Association Barbara Haumann told FoodNavigator-USA.com: “It verifies something that we in the industry are very aware of, namely the paucity of research…What is needed if you are going to make real claims that make a valid comparison is look at the diet as a whole, but studies don’t do that. They are just trying to hone in on the nutrients and health is so much more than that.”

Although there may be little evidence about nutrition-related health outcomes of consuming organic foods, Haumann pointed out that there are several other reasons why people might have a preference for organics, including avoidance of pesticides due to health and environmental concerns.

Earlier this month, a report from the President’s Cancer Panel raised concerns about pesticide residues on conventionally grown food and recommended that until further research is carried out Americans should choose foods grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers and wash conventionally grown foods before consumption.

Related topics: Organics, R&D

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