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PHILADELPHIA, September 3, 2012 - There is
generally no difference in nutritional value or risk for bacterial
contamination between organic and conventional foods, according to
a new study being published in Annals of Internal
Medicine, the flagship journal of the American College of
Physicians (ACP). While the consumption of organic fruits and
vegetables reduced exposure to any detectable pesticide residues by
30 percent, pesticide levels were generally within the allowable
limits for safety.
Researchers conducted a systematic review of 17 human studies
and 223 studies of nutrient and contaminant levels in unprocessed
foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, milk, eggs, chicken, pork
and meat to compare the health, nutritional, and safety
characteristics of organic and conventional foods. They found that
the published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods
are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods.
"Some believe that organic food is always healthier and more
nutritious," said Crystal Smith-Spangler, MD MS, a VA Physician
Fellow at CHP/PCOR, and lead author of the paper. "My colleagues
and I were a little surprised that we didn't find that."
The researchers did find weak evidence of the nutritional
superiority of organic foods in that organic produce contained
significantly higher levels of total phenols, a compound that may
have antioxidant properties, and that organic milk and chicken
contained significantly higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
However, the researchers concluded that since few people have
phosphorous deficiency, the finding has little clinical
Sales of organic foods have increased dramatically is the US.
Between 1997 and 2010 organic food sales have risen from $3.6
billion to over $26 billion annually. Prices vary, but consumers my
pay up to twice as much for organic foods versus conventional. In
general, to be certified "organic," produce must be grown without
synthetic pesticides or fertilizers or routine use of antibiotics
or growth hormones. Organic livestock are fed organically produced
feed and are free to roam outdoors. In addition, organic
regulations typically require that organic foods are processed
without irradiation or chemical food additives and are not grown
from genetically modified organisms.
"There are many reasons why consumers may choose to purchase
organic food," said Smith-Spangler. "We examined published
literature to assess the evidence for significant differences in
nutrition, food safety, and health outcomes between organic and
conventional foods and populations consuming these foods. However,
consumers may choose to purchase organic foods for other reasons
besides nutrition and food safety, such as concern for animal
welfare, the environment, or preferences in taste."
About Annals of Internal
MedicineAnnals of Internal Medicine is one of the five most widely
cited peer-reviewed medical journals in the world, with a current
impact factor of 16.7. The journal has been published for 85 years.
It accepts only 7 percent of the original research studies
submitted for publication. Follow Annals on Twitter and Facebook.
Media Contact: Angela Collom, ACPacollom@acponline.org or