Consumers who opt for organic foods often believe they are improving their health but there is currently no strong evidence that organics bring nutrition-related health benefits, a new research review finds.
A "disappointingly small" number of well-designed studies have looked at whether organic foods may have health benefits beyond their conventional counterparts, according to the review by researchers with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Health in Britain.
Moreover, they found, what studies have been done have largely focused on short-term effects of organic eating -- mainly antioxidant activity in the body -- rather than longer-term health outcomes.
Most of the antioxidant studies failed to find differences between organic and conventional diets. The review, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (http://www.ajcn.org/), adds to findings reported last year by the same research team.
How the study was done
In that study, the researchers combed through 162 articles published in the scientific literature over the last 50 years, and found no evidence that organic and conventional foods differ significantly in their nutrient content. For the current review, the researchers were able to find only 12 published studies that met their criteria for evaluating the health effects of organic foods.
Organic foods are made without the use of conventional pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics or hormones -- which could potentially reap benefits for people's health and the environment.
The current review, Dangour and his colleagues point out, did not look for studies on the possible health benefits of reduced exposure to those substances nor did it address the environmental impact of organic food production. - (Reuters, May 2010)