What is Organic Food?
Organic food refers to the method in which crops are grown in the soil where there is no prohibited toxic synthetic substance and produced without the use of chemical fertilizers, insecticides, pesticides, herbicides, preservatives, synthetic food additives, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Livestock that is raised for meat, eggs, and dairy products can be termed as organic if antibiotics, growth hormone, animal by-products, non-organic and GMO feed haven’t been added into their feed and medication.
According to the Mayo Clinic, for a grower to claim the organic label for their produce, they must avoid:
- Use of sewage sludge as fertilizer
- Use of synthetic fertilizers
- Use of most synthetic pesticides
- Genetic modifications that prevent disease or pests
- Irradiation to preserve the product or prevent pests
Organic Food Research
Let’s have a look at the scientific and medical research, reviews, and studies to support claims that organic food is safer, healthier, and more nutritious:
- One recent review published in the British Journal of Nutrition has concluded that there are significant differences in the composition between organic and nonorganic crop-based foods. Concentrations of antioxidants content such as polyphenolics are substantially higher. Compounds such as phenolic acids 19%, flavanones 69%, stilbenes 28%, flavones 26%, flavonols 50%, and anthocyanins 51% higher in organic crop-based foods. Most of these compounds have been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases, cardiovascular disease (CVD), neurodegenerative diseases, and certain cancers. Significant differences in vitamins and minerals compounds also had been found. Pesticide residues are found to be four times lower and the concentrations of the toxic metal cadmium (Cd) which is linked to adverse effects on the heart including certain cancer also been detected lower in organic foods.
- A systematic review and meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Nutrition have concluded that organic meat is superior for Omega 3 fatty acids. A Washington State University study detected that organic whole milk has on average 62 percent more omega-3 fatty acids and 25 percent lower omega-6 fatty acids compare to non-organic conventional milk. A similar study has found that Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) may have disease-fighting abilities was also 18 percent higher in organic milk. Pasture-based diets that are a requirement of organic livestock farms are considered the main reason for the better Essential Fatty Acid (EFA) profile in meat and dairy.
- A recent French study has found evidence to strongly suggest that organic food and products contribute to reducing cancer risk. People who ate more organic dairy, meat, and crop-based foods have 25 percent lower cancer diagnoses particularly lymphoma and postmenopausal breast cancer.
- A report published in The Journal Of Nutrition has concluded that organic fruits, vegetables, and salad consumption are positively related to higher sperm count, better semen quality, and higher fertility status in young men.
- Another report published in the journal Environmental Research found reductions in urinary excretion of several pesticide metabolites and parent compounds after switching to an organic food-based diet after only a week for both adults and children. This research suggests that an organic food-based diet can eliminate toxic waste that has accumulated in the body from unhealthy conventional diets.
- French Agency for Food Safety (AFSSA) performed a critical evaluation of organic food’s nutritional and sanitary quality. The major findings of this study are 1) Organic plant products contain more dry matter and minerals (E.g., Mg); and contain more anti-oxidant micronutrients such as phenols and salicylic acid. 2) Organic animal products contain more polyunsaturated fatty acids. 3) 94–100% of organic food does not contain any pesticide residues. 4) Organic vegetables contain far fewer nitrates, about 50% less. Thus, organic agricultural systems have the ability to produce food with high-quality standards.
- This review summarizes existing evidence on the impact of organic food on human health. Epidemiological studies have reported adverse effects of certain pesticides on children’s cognitive development at current levels of exposure. Studies showed that lower levels of nitrates are present in organically produced food. Nitrates have been associated with gastrointestinal cancer and methemoglobinemia in children.
- The KOALA Birth Cohort Study in the Netherlands has included 2700 newborn children and found links between the consumption of organic dairy products and lower eczema rates in children at 2 years of age.
- In a report by The Endocrine Society researchers found that pesticide exposure is connected with an increased risk of diabetes and obesity. It is also evident that common pesticides have endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that contribute to health problems by mimicking, blocking, or interfering with the body’s natural hormones. By hijacking the body’s chemical messengers, EDCs can alter the way cells develop and grow. EDC exposure is connected to infertility, hormone-related cancers, neurological issues, and other disorders.
In addition, Higher levels of Phenolic compounds that have antioxidant, antimutagenic, anti-inflammatory, and anticarcinogenic properties have been found in organic food. Some polyphenols can create a protective effect on stomach cancer, colon cancer, liver cancer, lung cancer, mouth cancer, duodenum cancer, mammary glands, and skin cancer. A number of polyphenols that have been found in organic fruits and vegetables have also been linked to a decrease in coronary heart disease incidents and reducing oxidative stress.
Vitamin C is known as the security guard of our body for protecting our cells and is also responsible for maintaining healthy hair, skin, bones, joints, and blood vessels. Higher levels of Vitamin C have been found in organically grown fruits and vegetables.
In a recent review of studies published in Environmental Health in October 2017, researchers found some evidence that suggests people who eat organic products are more likely to have benefits from organic food including:
- living overall healthier lifestyles
- avoiding childhood allergies
- reducing their risk of obesity or being overweight as an adult
Going organic for nutrition and health benefits is truly worth it. It’s evident that pesticide residue and other toxic synthetic substances are lower in organically grown food and products. As the demand for organic food is on the rise, the production will be needed improvements to achieve sustainable production for humans in the near future.
Organic food compared to non-organic is undeniably safer and more nutritious. It has become immensely important to know the criteria for truly organic in this processed food age.