Thursday, September 13, 2012

Organic vs. Conventional

The organic vs. conventional foods debate continues, but it’s a clear choice if you ask me. Organic wins hands down.

The organic vs. conventional food debate continues, and a new study by Stanford University is one of the most recent to hit the headlines, indicating that there’s little evidence of health benefits from organic foods. The study analyzed some existing studies comparing organic and conventional foods. Dena Bravata, M.D., M.S., the senior author, says, “There isn’t much difference between organic and conventional foods, if you’re an adult and making a decision based solely on your health.”

Really? That conclusion makes sense only if you think that ingesting pesticides and antibiotic-resistant bacteria—among other downfalls of conventional foods—are healthy for you. I say that because the researchers also concluded that consumption of organic foods reduce one’s exposure to pesticides, can reduce exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and that children eating an organic diet have lower pesticide residues.

In my opinion, those findings alone negate the researchers’ idea that there’s “not much difference between organic and conventional foods health-wise.”

The truth is that going organic offers huge health benefits because, by definition, organic means no prohibited pesticides, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), antibiotics, growth hormones, irradiation, sewer sludge or synthetic fertilizers.  In fact, over 3,000 high-risk toxins, including pesticides, are by law excluded from organic products.

Organic also means specific soil and water conservation methods and pollution reduction as well as adhering to animal health and welfare standards—and those are just some of the health benefits of choosing organic.

By contrast, when food is grown conventionally with pesticides and other toxins, then those ultimately get to you and can have severe health consequences because pesticides can cause poisoning, infertility, birth defects, nervous system damage and cancer. Likewise, GMOs can lead to infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging, dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, [faulty] insulin regulation, cell signaling, and protein formation, and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen and gastrointestinal system.

Quite simply, you can avoid these toxins by choosing organic. In fact, scientists agree that pesticide levels drop to undetectable levels when test subjects eat an organic diet, but return almost immediately with a non-organic diet.

But wait. There’s more to point out with this study, including the fact that only a fraction of available papers were picked for this study as well as the fact that the researchers didn’t look at even one long-term study on the health outcomes of people consuming organic  vs. conventionally produced food.

That made me wonder if  they included the 4-year study (among others) saying that organic farm soils with higher biodiversity create foods with higher nutritional value—in some cases with 40 to 60 percent more antioxidants and other significant nutrients in foods such as veggies, fruits and milk.

The Stanford-study researchers did note, however, that organic milk may contain significantly higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, and that “specific organic practices can yield products of higher nutritional quality.”

Even while acknowledging these pluses to organics, the researchers indicated that the clinical significance of these was “unclear” as far as health benefits.

Well, it’s clear to me. Organic is the way to go when it comes to your health.

Find out more about the personal health and environmental benefits of organic with Jennifer Turley, Ph.D., and Shaun Jackson, Ph.D., of Weber State University: