Is organic food better than conventional food for our health?
First off, research to look at health would need to be a very long term study, methodically challenging and obviously expensive to conduct. This is why studies look at clinical outcomes (such as symptoms worsening etc) or health-related biomarkers (a biological marker, which can indicate normal or abnormal processes) examples of these are; antioxidant status/activity, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation, glycaemia, immune system markers etc.
A systematic review by smith-spangler et al (2), included 17 studies which evaluated health outcomes in humans (13,806 humans in fact) consuming organic and conventional foods.
Of these studies, 3 examined clinical outcomes (wheezing, allergic symptoms etc) and the rest examined biomarkers.
What they found
There is no evidence that organic foods provide any advantage over conventionally produced food when it comes to health. Most studies do show reduced urine pesticides in organic food consumers, but there’s no data to show this is meaningful for health (see part 2, to come).
It is generally accepted that there is insufficient evidence to date to conclude any advantage of organic food over conventional foods.
That being said and this being the internet; increased consumption of fruit, vegetables and plant foods has positive findings irrespective of conventional or organic resources.
- Food Safety Authority of Ireland, 2014.
- Smith-Spangler C, Brandeau ML, Hunter GE, Bavinger JC, Pearson M, Eschbach PJ, Sundaram V, Liu H, Schirmer P, Stave C, Olkin I, Bravata DM. Are organic foods safer or healthier than conventional alternatives?: a systematic review. Ann Intern Med. 2012 Sep 4;157(5):348-66. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-157-5-201209040-00007. Erratum in: Ann Intern Med. 2012 Nov 6;157(9):680. Erratum in: Ann Intern Med. 2012 Oct 2;157(7):532. PMID: 22944875.