People who often cite their loyalty to organic products — which are significantly priced higher than other foods — as being a healthier option are wrong. Stanford University doctors dug through reams of research to find out — and concluded there’s little evidence that going organic is much healthier, citing only a few differences involving pesticides and antibiotics. The study was conducted after numerous patients asked them if eating organic products was the healthier food option.
“I was absolutely surprised,” said Dr. Dena Bravata, a senior research affiliate at Stanford and long-time internist who began the analysis because so many of her patients asked if they should switch. Dr. Bravata stressed that there are many reasons why someone might choose organic foods over conventional foods, but when it comes to individual health, there isn’t much difference between the two. Eating organic fruits and vegetables can lower exposure to pesticides by 30%, including for children — but the amount measured from conventionally grown produce was within safety limits, the researchers reported Monday. The organic food failed to prove more nutritious. The one notable difference that Dr. Bravata’s team discovered is organic foods proved to be more resistant to antibiotic-resistant germs than conventional products; however, the bacterial contamination of food are the same whether or not the product is organic. During their testing, the researchers found that bacteria in non-organic chicken or pork had a 33% higher risk of being resistant to multiple antibiotics. The report was released on Monday in the journal of Annals of Internal Medicine.
Organic foods account for 4.2% of retail food sales, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It certifies products as organic if they meet certain requirements including being produced without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, or routine use of antibiotics or growth hormones. Consumers can pay a lot more for some organic products but demand is rising: Organic foods accounted for $31.4 billion sales last year, according to a recent Obama administration report. That’s up from $3.6 billion in 1997.