Organically Grown Food contains Less Pesticide and is More Nutritious




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Home Grown
Health Sciences Institute e-Alert

Tuesday July 27, 2004


Dear Reader,

If you dropped by your local grocery store or fresh produce stand after I sent you the USDA's list of top 20 antioxidant-rich foods (see the e-Alert "Tonight's Top 20" 7/20/04), you might have been offered a choice: organic or non-organic.

In terms of health, the choice is clear. But that doesn't mean it's an easy choice.

If you're like me, every week you brace yourself for that shocking moment when the cashier at the grocery store hits the "total" button and you try not to yelp out loud. So I'm always looking for ways to reduce my grocery bill, not increase it. But there's no getting around the fact that if you buy organic rather than non-organic, you'll almost certainly end up spending more.

So is it worth the markup? Ultimately, that's a personal decision. But to help answer that question, let's take a look at a report on organic foods, recently published in "Coronary and Diabetic Care in the UK 2004."

Pest control
The organic foods report (prepared by the Soil Association - the UK's counterpart to the USDA) addressed eight key topics of food cultivation, processing and nutritional content, starting with pesticides.

This is probably the main element that most people associate with organic foods: that they're pesticide-free. What's not so well known is the connection between pesticide use and the antioxidant content of food.

In the e-Alert "Quite Contrary" (3/27/03), I told you how crops that are stressed by insects produce polyphenolic compounds, which are naturally potent antioxidants. But crops that are treated with pesticides don't need the natural protection of polyphenolics, and produce less of the compounds. So when crops are denied pesticides, consumers get a double benefit: better nutrition without the residue of chemical pesticides in the food.

The UK report noted that pesticide use has been associated with a variety of health risks, including cancer, fetal abnormalities, chronic fatigue, and Parkinson's disease. One study revealed that women with breast cancer are five to nine times more likely to have traces of pesticides in their blood than women who don't have the cancer.

Additives out
Organic foods are free of food additives such as MSG, hydrogenated fats, and artificial sweeteners and coloring, which have been associated with a risk of asthma, headaches, growth retardation, and hyperactivity in children. These additives have also been linked to the development of allergies - another of the key elements of the UK report.

Genetically modified (GM) organisms are also not allowed in the production of organic food. The report notes that only ten studies of GM foods have been conducted. Among those, the ones that were completely independent of funding or input from companies with GM affiliations found evidence of harmful effects in the gut lining of humans.

The report cautions that until GM crops and food products are properly tested, "people are, in our opinion, wise to avoid eating GM food."

High C
Besides the obvious benefits of not ingesting pesticides, additives, and GM organisms, organic foods have been found to be more nutritious than conventionally grown foods. The Soil Association conducted a study to compare the vitamin and mineral content of organic foods vs. non-organic foods. The organics won out with higher levels in all 21 of the examined nutrients.

The vitamin C and magnesium levels in the organic foods were 27 percent and 29 percent higher, respectively, compared to the non-organic samples. And minerals were found to be significantly higher in organic spinach, potatoes, cabbage, and lettuce.

Similar results were reported in tests of organic livestock animals that foraged for fresh food compared to livestock that was given processed feed. The organic livestock had higher concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) - two key nutrients whose value is well known to HSI members.

Coming around
For several years, the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) didn't officially recognize any difference between organic foods and conventionally grown foods. But the UK organic food report indicates that the official view may be changing. At a public meeting last year, Sir John Krebs, the Chair of the FSA, admitted that organic food contains fewer residues of pesticides than foods grown by conventional means.

So if you're fortunate enough to have access to fresh, organically grown produce, the next time you're given the choice between lower priced conventionally grown food or higher priced organic, just ask yourself: Which would Sir John buy?

To Your Good Health,

Jenny Thompson
Health Sciences Institute

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"Organic Foods in Relation to Nutrition and Health Key Facts"
Medical News Today, 7/11/04,
"Pizza and Risk of Acute Myocardial Infarction" European Journal
of Clinical Nutrition, May 2004, 
"Prevent Heart Attacks - With Pizza?" Maureen Williams, ND,
Healthnotes Newswire, 7/15/04,

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