Organic Foods Not Healthier, More Nutritious

New study by Stanford University shows that organic foods have little advantage over conventional foods.

Published on: Sep 4, 2012

Conventional agriculture gets a boost this week with the release of a Stanford University study that shows that the published literature "lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods." The study, which will be touted by conventional ag groups all week, does note that consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistance bacteria, but researchers also add that no conventional foods had residues above established safety levels.

The study, which looked at 17 studies in humans and 223 studies of nutrient and contaminant levels in foods took a look at a wide range of issues. Only three of the human studies examined clinical outcomes, finding no significant differences between populations by food type for allergic reactions or symptomatic infection, such as Campylobacter.

NOT SO CLEAR. The organic choice doesnt mean a more nutritional or safer choice, according to a new study from Stanford University.
NOT SO CLEAR. The organic choice doesn't mean a more nutritional or safer choice, according to a new study from Stanford University.

Two studies reviewed reported lower urinary pesticide levels among children consuming organic versus conventional diets, but studies of those levels in adults including urine, serum, breast milk and semen could find no clinical differences. The study also found no difference in the risk to exposure to E. coli contamination between conventional and organic foods, which researchers note is often unrelated to farming methods.

As for nutritional differences? They didn't find any. The one difference was higher levels of phosphorus in organic foods, though the researchers say this finding was not clinically significant.

Researchers do note that the studies used were heterogeneous and limited in number, and that publication bias may be present. There was no primary funding source listed.

One author of the study - Crystal Smith-Spangler - says some believe that organic food is always healthier and more nutritious. "We were a little surprised that we didn't find that."

One Stanford Blogger, notes that there are other reasons to buy organic, but that perceived added nutrition or safety aren't part of the argument. Expect more commentary on the study and its findings as different groups start reviewing the data and information.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Organic foods are healthier than conventional foods in general because they contain less toxins. Toxins harm our bodies and are linked to everything from ADHD to cancer. I believe this study is misleading to the public and this is one of the reasons that we have so many health problems in the USA. Profits continue to come before public health. Get educated. http://www.examiner.com/article/dr-oz-on-organic-food http://www.examiner.com/article/organic-foods-are-healthier

  2. Anonymous says:

    Organic is Snakeoil plain and simple

  3. Anonymous says:

    Funny how now the organic people are now saying it wasn't about it being healthy & better for you. Now it's because we want to help the farmers & the environment. Give me a break! The media, farmers, even the first lady having been promoting how good it is for you for years!

  4. Josh Flint says:

    My biggest complaint with organic has always been the marketing that surrounds it. If it were simply about pesticide use, I could handle that. But, it's not. Celebrity chefs, talk show hosts and commercial pitchmen spend the day-time hours pushing consumers toward the "premium" nature surrounding organic ingredients. As a person who buys primarily based on price, taste and nutrition, I never buy organic. Yet, my methodology would seem ludicrous by television's standards. Also, while organic labels tend to scream premium, a GMO label would do exactly the opposite. Somewhere a roomful of "madmen" are counting their dollars as U.S. consumers continue to pump millions into the organic segment.

  5. Sustainable farmer says:

    I do not believe that most people buy organic foods because they are more nutritious to begin with. They buy them because they have not been raised in a chemical soup of toxic materials that contribute to environmental degradation and artificially mutated crops. The organic certification process can be a racket however. We are organic but do not pursue certification as we exceed USDA standards. Why pay for something less? Besides, we sell for below grocery store pricing direct from the farm. Organic does not necessarily mean more money. It costs me less to grow organically than with chemicals. That is one reason I do it.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Guess I'll think again before I pay significantly more for the Organic. Just tired of being exploited just so someone can make a buck selling me snake oil.

    • Willie Vogt of www.farmprogress.com says:

      Organics aren't "snake oil" and the study did point out that people eating organic foods had 30% lower levels of chemical exposure (I know I don't have that worded right) - but there were lower levels in the studies reviewed. Detects in adults, however, were also at levels below those established as safe. Organic foods are a choice consumers can make. Farmers who raise them have created a viable business model as well.

  7. Anonymous says:

    who paid for the study?

    • Willie Vogt of www.farmprogress.com says:

      The study was funded by Stanford and did not list any other outside funding sources.

  8. Anonymous says:

    We farm organically because we fell it is the right way to farm, for us at least. This study will certainly not change that. We also feel it is misleading.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I agree. Avoiding pesticides and overusage of antibiotics are how you get certified as an organic farmer. It's not that organic peaches contain more vitamins. It's that they're not sprayed with pesticides. That's the point!

  10. Anonymous says:

    have to wonder who is behind this article...

  11. Anonymous says:

    Two of the sad items found in the report were that: 1) Over 30% of conventionally grown food contained detectible amounts of toxic pesticides, 2) A far smaller amount of organic food also contained these pesticides, indicating that nearby conventional farms are affecting our organic food supplies. GE

  12. Anonymous says:

    yes they are healthier as they contain less pesticides. This article is misleading

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