A US study, published Monday, September 3, 2012 and is already controversial, tended to prove that organic options present no particular advantages for the health of consumers. What about nutritionally balanced ones, as offered by Nutrisystem?
A stone in the pond – this is how we could define the new study on the benefits of organic food for health. “Despite conventional wisdom, we have not proven that organic products had real nutritional benefits compared to so-called conventional food,” said Crystal Smith-Spangler, director of the study, which was conducted at Stanford University and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The researchers combed through 240 studies on the subject. Seventeen clung to differences in nutritional quality among organic foods and others, while 223 compared the levels of pesticides and bacteria in both types of products.
The result is amazing: no nutritional difference. Even more amazing was that the researchers found no evidence regarding the health risks from non–organic agriculture products. According to the study, “It is very unusual to find an overdose of pesticide residues in conventional products to consumers,” because the pesticide levels in these foods remains below the limits set by health authorities, which is the case with Nutrisystem’s ingredients.
Healthy, organic meat
Non-organic products, however, are 30% more likely to be contaminated with pesticides, compared to organic foods. Also, there is a higher risk (33% higher) of consuming antibiotics in some meats, like pork or chicken. Used to accelerate the growth of animals, these methods expose the consumer to risks of antibiotic resistance. The study also found that the omega-3 rates would be higher in chicken and organic milk.
A controversial health study
Critics recycled reactions again and again on all sides. Scientists said the researchers did not rely on the same basis as existing studies. The results were also questioned, since they ran counter to previous studies. In 2010, a team of American researchers have shown that vitamin C levels would be higher in organic strawberries, which are included in nutritious meals like those offered by Nutrisystem.
An economic issue
The debate is likely to continue for a long time, especially when you consider the economic challenges of organic farming. Dr. Bravata, one of the authors of the study, explained that people buy organic for several reasons: the effects of pesticides on children, the environmental impact of conventional agriculture, and the risk of public resistance to antibiotics, conceding that “these arguments are quite valid.” Dr. Smith-Spangler added that “tackling the bio is complex as several factors come into play, including economic issues.” This is on top of the health issues that even some nutrition-focused companies like Nutrisystem look into.
In the United States, organic farming represents a market of $31.4 billion (24.9 billion euros) in 2011 against 3.6 billion (2.9 billion euros) in 1997.