Thursday, 30 July 2009

An organic food con brings on MacDonalds

I’m feeling a bit cheated this morning. I have got into the habit of buying organically grown vegetables despite the considerable extra cost over the standard alternative. I had somehow convinced myself that the price was worth paying before of the extra good they would do my ageing body. And what do i find when I do my morning survey of the world’s press. This headline all over the London Daily Telegraph: “Organic food has no added nutritional benefit, says Food Standards Agency - Expensive organic food is no better for you than conventionally-grown farm produce, according to the Government’s food watchdog.”

In shock and horror I quickly moved to the quoted academic journal from the story derived in the hope that there was some cruel misinterpretation of the real findings. Alas there was no joy in theAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The authors of “Nutritional quality of organic foods: a systematic review”  — Alan D Dangour, Sakhi K Dodhia, Arabella Hayter, Elizabeth Allen, Karen Lock and Ricardo Uauy  — had been quoted correctly.

I bring you the evidence that has left me so depressed I am going out to buy MacDonalds:


Background: Despite growing consumer demand for organically produced foods, information based on a systematic review of their nutritional quality is lacking.

Objective: We sought to quantitatively assess the differences in reported nutrient content between organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs.

Design: We systematically searched PubMed, Web of Science, and CAB Abstracts for a period of 50 y from 1 January 1958 to 29 February 2008, contacted subject experts, and hand-searchedbibliographies. We included peer-reviewed articles with English abstracts in the analysis if they reported nutrient content comparisons between organic and conventional foodstuffs. Two reviewers extracted study characteristics, quality, and data. The analyses were restricted to the most commonly reported nutrients.

Results: From a total of 52,471 articles, we identified 162 studies (137 crops and 25 livestock products); 55 were of satisfactory quality. In an analysis that included only satisfactory qualitystudies, conventionally produced crops had a significantly higher content of nitrogen, and organically produced crops had a significantly higher content of phosphorus and higher titratable acidity. No evidence of a difference was detected for the remaining 8 of 11 crop nutrient categories analyzed. Analysis of the more limited database on livestock products found no evidence of a difference in nutrient content between organically and conventionally produced livestock products.

Conclusions: On the basis of a systematic review of studies of satisfactory quality, there is no evidence of a difference in nutrient quality between organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs. The small differences in nutrient content detected are biologically plausible and mostly relate to differences in production methods.

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