Before this review done in March 2017, there was no published long-term, large-scale research comparing effects of organic vs. conventional diets on chronic diseases or general health. This UK-Norway partnered review wanted to find out to what extent eating organics might affect us so it compared many recent international studies.
The review states that the most recent research shows definite differences between eating organic and conventional foods. And also increasing scientific evidence shows the biodiversity and environmental sustainability benefits of organic farming. But there is still considerable controversy over organic production increasing food quality, safety and human health. What did this review find?
The meta-analyses of published data showed that organic crops have from 18%-69% higher antioxidants (linked to reduced cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases and certain cancers). Organic crops have lower cadmium levels. Organic meat and dairy products have higher concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids, iron and vitamin E. A study of 54,000 French-Belgium adults reported that regular consumers of organic food had a substantially lower risk of being overweight or obese. Also, eating organic food might reduce incidence of pre-eclampsia (a pregnancy complication) and hypospadias (a male sexual condition).
Conventional crops are four times more likely to contain pesticide residues, and have higher nitrogen/nitrates/nitrites that may have negative effects on health. However, conventional crops have higher protein levels. Conventional meat has higher saturated fatty acids linked to cardiovascular disease, but conventional milk has more iodine and selenium (beneficial nutrients).
These researchers still came up short with a definitive answer, saying, “There is insufficient data to accurately estimate the magnitude of differences for individual crops and meat products from different livestock species, and accurately estimate differences in dietary intakes and range of other lifestyle factors.”
(Marcin Baranski, Leonidas Rempelos et al.,“Effects of organic food consumption on human health…” Food Nutr Res. 2017; 61(1): 1287333. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5345585 Nafferton Ecological Farming Group (NEFG), Newcastle University, UK & Department of Nutrition, University of Oslo, Norway)