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Organic Foods: Is the Glass Half-Full or Half-Empty?

Posted Sep 04 2012 3:00am
I just caught wind of a study being released in today's Annals of Internal Medicine in which the authors concluded that while organic foods are no more nutritious than non-organic foods, they may have lower pesticide residues & antibiotic resistant bacteria.  So is the glass half-empty or half-full?  In other words, should we be spending all earnings at Whole Paycheck or buying "organic" foods at our favorite supermarket or even farmer's market?

To arrive at their conclusions, the authors dug through 17 human studies and over 200 nutrient/contaminant studies.  Unfortunately, less than a handful looked at outcomes such as eczema, asthma, atopy & symptomatic infection, w/no studies demonstrating any clinical benefit.  2 studies found lower urinary pesticide levels in children, surely a good thing.  Overall, pesticide residues were lower in organic foods than in conventionally grown food stuffs, again a very good thing.

No studies demonstrated any nutrient benefit in adults.  Surprisingly, risk for bacterial contamination w/Escherichia coli was the same regardless of production method.  On the other hand, risk of antibiotic-resistant bacteria was lower in organic vs conventionally raised chicken & pork.

So does it really matter?  Part of the problem is in the definition of organic , which is still tossed around rather loosely.  Next, if the risk for contamination is same, does it matter if the risk for antibiotic-resistance is lower?  Most important, what's the outcome benefit to you & me, especially if it costs more w/o any nutritional benefit?  Obviously, that's a decision that you'll need to make, weighing benefit vs cost.
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