I’ve been bombarded with questions this month asking whether or not organic food is more nutritious and worth the extra money, and I’m not surprised. There has been a lot of controversy and contradictory research published that would leave anyone confused.
The main problem started when Stanford University researchers published a meta-analysis of several studies in The Annals of Internal Medicine (Sept. 4, 2012).
The authors—many of whom are afﬁliates and fellows of Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute, which is funded by the agribusiness giant Cargill and foundations that have deep ties to agricultural chemical and biotechnology corporations like Monsanto—concluded that “the published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are signiﬁcantly more nutritious than conventional foods.”
The mass media pounced on the situation and blasted headlines proclaiming organic food is no more nutritious than conventional food, but there are problems with this simpliﬁcation.
The Stanford paper contradicts a 2011 study from the Human Nutrition Research Center of Newcastle University, which analyzed the same research and concluded that organic food has on average 12 to 16 percent more nutrients than conventional crops (Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences 2011, 30(1), 177-197). It also ignores a 2010 study by Washington State University, which found that organic strawberries contained more vitamin C than conventional ones. The Stanford team has acknowledged that this study was “erroneously” left out of the analysis, but there seems to be a pattern of cherry picking data to fit a desired outcome.
Most importantly, what has been overlooked in most of the ensuing tête-à-tête is a single statement made by the Stanford researchers which nearly everyone does agree with: “Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues.”
This pesticide residue is often cited as a major contributor to a number of human ailments, including AD(H)D, neurological disorders and cancers of most tissues. In fact, the authors of the President’s Cancer Panel advise Americans to decrease exposure to pesticides by choosing food grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Extensive research, including studies cited in Stanford’s own study, indicate that organic food is undeniably lower in these pesticide residues and, therefore, safer to consume.
So, as you can see, even if organic food is only as nutritious as conventional foods, it is still worth the money to avoid the potentially deadly pesticides.
My verdict: Spend the money and buy organic—and, as always, be well.
When Dr. Jason Bradley isn’t accepting funds from the inﬁnitely deep pockets of Big Organic, he can be found practicing Metabolic and Nutritional Medicine at Washington Street Wellness Center in Iowa City, Iowa.