Daily News Archive
From March 12, 2003

Research Shows Health Benefits of Eating Organic

For the second time this month, a university has published a study that suggests organic food has health benefits. A University of California at Davis study, published in the February 26, 2003 edition of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (2003, 51(5)1237-1241), finds greater nutritional attributes in organically grown food compared with produce grown conventionally. The research suggests that the beneficial qualities in organic food may result from the lack of insecticides and herbicides used.

The study, Comparison of the Total Phenolic and Ascorbic Acid Content of Freeze-Dried and Air-Dried Marionberry, Strawberry, and Corn Grown Using Conventional, Organic, and Sustainable Agricultural Practices (Asami, D. K.; Hong, Y.-J.; Barrett, D. M.; Mitchell, A. E.), looks at corn, blackberries and strawberries that were grown using three approaches: conventionally (using artificial pesticides and fertilizers), sustainably (using artificial fertilizers but no pesticides), as well as organically (lacking both artificial fertilizers and pesticides). The research team compared levels of polyphenolics and ascorbic acid in each set of produce examined. The organic and sustainably grown food contained up to 58% more polyphenolics, which are compounds that act as antioxidants, and may help prevent heart disease and cancer. Sustainably grown and organic produce also had more ascorbic acid, which the body converts to vitamin C.

Polyphenolics are natural chemicals a plant produces in response to pest presence, their bitter taste acting to drive pests away. This new research suggests that when pesticides are used the plant needs to make less of these chemicals. Alyson Mitchell, an assistant professor of food science at the University of California, Davis, who led the study, stated that crops grown without using pesticides or herbicides might make more polyphenolics because they are more likely to be stressed by insects or other pests. "This may reflect the balance between adequate nutrition in the form of fertilizers and external pest pressures because of the lack of pesticides and herbicides," she said.

Another recent study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives and described in the March 6 edition of Daily News, found additional benefit to eating organic by examining levels of metabolites of organophosphate pesticides in children who ate conventional foods compared with children who ate a diet of organic food. Children with organic diets contained significantly less metabolites of these toxic pesticides in their blood and urine.

To make sure your food is organic, look for the USDA Organic label. Read the press release for the University of California, Davis study.