Organic food may taste better, but scientists say there is little evidence to suggest it’s healthier than conventionally farmed produce.
Although grown without synthetic fertilisers, pesticides and other chemicals, research by Stanford University found no consistent differences in the vitamin content of organic compared to regular produce.
The review of more than 200 research studies did find, however, that consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Organic products were 30 per cent less likely to contain pesticide residue than conventionally grown fruit and vegetables, but were not necessarily 100 per cent free of the chemicals.
Dr Crystal Smith-Spangler, a teacher at Stanford's Centre for Health Policy said that the overall message of the review was that people need to eat more fruit and vegetables, regardless of how they are grown, because most Western diets are deficient.
“Some believe that organic food is always healthier and more nutritious,” she said.
“We were a little surprised that we didn't find that. Our goal was to shed light on what the evidence is.
“This is information that people can use to make their own decisions based on their level of concern about pesticides, their budget and other considerations.”
Dr Dena Bravata, a senior affiliate with Stanford's Center for Health Policy, said there were a number of reasons, other than health benefits, that people chose to eat organic foods. These include taste, concerns about the effects of conventional farming practices on the environment and animal welfare.
“There isn't much difference between organic and conventional foods if you're an adult and making a decision based solely on your health,” she said.
“If you look beyond health effects, there are plenty of other reasons to buy organic instead of conventional.”
A key finding of the review was that some studies suggested organic milk contained higher levels of omega-3 fatty acid, which can assist with brain development in infants and be important for cardiovascular health.
The review also found that organic chicken and pork appeared to reduce exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, but it was unclear whether this would impact health.
Researchers said that the review was difficult to complete due to the various ways organic food was tested.
The research was published in the journal, Annals of Internal Medicine.
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