In the largest analysis of studies till date on organic food, researchers from Stanford University have said there is “little evidence of healthier benefits from organic food over those grown conventionally” in a paper published in the medical journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
The researchers found no difference in protein or fat content between organic and conventional milk. No consistent differences were also seen in the vitamin content of organic products. Only one nutrient, phosphorus, was significantly higher in organic food as compared to conventionally grown produce.
The only benefit found was that consumption of organic food can reduce the risk of pesticide exposure. The study, however, added that organic foods are not necessarily 100% free of pesticides.
For the analysis, researchers identified 237 of the most relevant papers published till date including 17 studies of populations consuming organic and conventional diets and 223 studies that compared either the nutrient levels or the bacterial, fungal or pesticide contamination of various products (fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, milk, poultry and eggs) grown organically and conventionally. The duration of the studies involving human subjects ranged from two days to two years.
Bravata, a senior affiliate with Stanford’s Center for Health Policy, and Crystal Smith-Spangler, an instructor in the school’s division of general medical disciplines, did the comprehensive meta-analysis.
The researchers said their aim was to educate people, not to discourage them from making organic purchases.
Organic foods are often twice as expensive as their conventionally grown counterparts. Taste preferences and concerns about the effects of conventional farming practices on the environment and animal welfare are some of the reasons people choose organic products.