Organic Foods May Not Be Better for Us

A new report casts doubts on the foods’ ability to keep us safer and healthier.

Posted: 09/10/2012 05:15 PM EDT

For years, we have been hearing about how organic foods are better and safer for us because, unlike conventional foods, they are raised or grown without pesticides, growth hormones and other chemicals. Many Americans have jumped on this bandwagon, spending more money on these foods in hopes to live a healthier life.

 

Despite Blacks being more likely to live in food deserts and have lack of an access to healthier foods, past data has shown that organic food consumption is increasing among African-Americans, so much so that we buy more organic foods than any other racial minority in the U.S.

 

But a new study says that perhaps we’ve been wasting our hard-earned money for a claim of better health that may not exist.

 

Researchers from Stanford University found that organic food (meats, fruits, vegetables and milk, to name a few) do not contain more nutrients than conventional food, nor do they protect us better from E. coli.

 

The team of researchers reviewed over 225 studies that either compared organic foods with conventional foods and/or analyzed the nutritional value of foods, according to TIME.com. And while they found some disappointing news for organic-food lovers, there is some good news, too:

 

—Organic produce was 30 percent less likely to have pesticide residue than conventional fruits and vegetables.

—Organic and conventional foods showed levels of pesticides that were not high enough to exceed food-safety limits.

—While both organic and conventional meats were equally likely to be contaminated with low rates of bacteria, organic chicken and pork were 33 percent less likely than their conventional counterparts to have antibiotic resistant bacteria living within them.

—Organic milk and chicken contained higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, compared to conventional milk and chicken. Omega 3s are believed to reduce the risk of heart disease and inflammation. But researchers are clear: These levels are very small, and they are not sure if they could make any real improvement in our overall health.

 

So will this study put a dent in the booming $12 billion organic food industry?

 

The New York Times reported that pro-organic advocates don’t think so, claiming that there are still plenty of benefits to these foods, including them having fewer pesticides, which serve as a motivation for people to buy and consume these more expensive foods:

 

Rather, the motivation is to reduce exposure to pesticides, especially for pregnant women and their young children. Organic food advocates point to, for example, three studies published last year, by scientists at Columbia University, the University of California, Berkeley, and Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. The studies identified pregnant women exposed to higher amounts of pesticides known as organophosphates and then followed their children for years. In elementary school, those children had, on average, I.Q.’s several points lower than those of their peers.

 

In the end, the choice is up to you if you want to stop shelling out more dough for your food. I’m not quite ready to give up on the organic revolution. Knowing that my milk, eggs and produce are not doped up with hormones makes me sleep a little bit better at night.

 

 

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 (Photo:  Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

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