New research confirms health benefits of buying organic

New research confirms health benefits of buying organic

SINGAPORE - A new study has confirmed that consuming organic foods reduces consumers' exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotics resistant bacteria.

In the study, Stanford University researchers reviewed 17 human studies and 223 studies of nutrient and contaminant levels in unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, milk, eggs, chicken, pork, and meat.

It was published this month in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

There were three key findings in the report: First, that conventional produce has a 30 per cent higher risk for pesticide contamination than organic produce.

Second, that conventional chicken and pork have a 33 per cent higher risk for contamination with bacteria resistant to three or more antibiotics than organic products do.

Third, that there is no difference in the food safety risk between organic and conventional foods.

"Organic foods have the least chemicals applied in their production and the least residues in the final products," said Christine Bushway, the Organic Trade Association's (OTA) Executive Director and CEO.

"And, because organic livestock practices forbid the use of antibiotics, including the routine use of low level antibiotics for growth, organic meat contains less antibiotic-resistant bacteria," she added.

In response to a previous report claiming that organic produce typically isn't any better than conventional food when it comes to vitamin and nutrient content, the researchers acknowledged that published literature lacks broad evidence on this point.

The researchers in the latest study did however did cite higher levels of total beneficial phenols in organic produce, omega-3 fatty acids in organic milk and chicken, and vaccenic acid in organic chicken.

The earlier study, led by a team of researchers from Stanford University and the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care, said a review of more than 200 studies showed that the only nutrient difference was slightly more phosphorous in the organic products.

Organic milk and chicken may also contain more omega-3 fatty acids, but that was based on only a few studies, it said.

In addition, while more than one third of conventional produce had detectable pesticide residues - compared with 7 per cent of organic produce samples - it was uncommon for either organic or conventional foods to exceed the allowable limits for pesticides.

Hence, it was unclear whether a difference in residues would have an effect on health, lead researcher Smith-Spangler said.

yamadak@sph.com.sg

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