Organic is Different
30 Oct 2015
Organic crops higher in beneficial antioxidants, lower in pesticides
A new scientific paper published in the British Journal of Nutrition shows that there are significant nutritional quality differences between organic and conventional crops (primarily vegetables, fruit and cereals).
The most striking differences are: higher concentrations of antioxidants and lower levels of potentially harmful cadmium, nitrate and nitrite in organic as opposed to conventional crops.
It almost goes without saying that the levels and frequency of pesticides residues are significantly and massively higher in conventional produce.
Antioxidants and healthOn average organic produce had between 18% and 69% more antioxidant compounds. Smaller, but still statistically significant, composition differences were also detected for a number of carotenoids and vitamins.
There is scientific evidence of the health benefits of increased consumption of these compounds; most notably protection against chronic diseases, including cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases and some cancers.
It is estimated that a switch to eating organic fruit, vegetable and cereals (and food made from them) would lead to a 20–40% (and for some compounds up to a 60%) increase in crop-based antioxidant (poly)phenolic consumption without any increase in calories.
Conventional farming decreases nutrient levels in foodThe researchers noted that, in particular, there is increasing evidence that higher levels of manufactured chemical fertilisers, most notably the nitrogen and phosphate-based fertilisers that are prohibited by organic farming standards, leads to substantially lower concentrations of antioxidants in conventional crops.
Groundbreaking and comprehensive studyThe study is the most up-to-date analysis of the nutrient content in organic compared to conventionally produced foods, synthesizing the results of many more studies than previous analyses. The findings are the result of a groundbreaking new systematic literature review and meta-analysis by an international team of scientists led by experts at Newcastle University.
You can download a leaflet about the paper here. The full paper can be accessed here and a summary briefing here