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US: Organic IS healthier, say food scientists

As the debate rages on about whether organically grown food is better for us than the "conventional" produce we have become used to, a new study sides firmly with organic.

Scientists found that some organic food is more healthy after tests on kiwi fruit grown by both methods.


^^^ Organically grown kiwis had significantly higher levels of vitamin C and polyphenols

The American researchers discovered that organically grown kiwis had significantly higher levels of vitamin C and polyphenols - compounds associated with health benefits including reducing cholesterol, improving circulation and preventing cancer.

While sales of organic food are growing rapidly, some experts claim there is little scientific evidence of health benefits.

David Miliband, the Environment Secretary, has said that buying organic was simply a "lifestyle choice", pointing to research by the Food Standards Agency that concluded there was no nutritional difference.

But Peter Melchett, the policy director of the Soil Association, said last night: "This is a very rigorous study. There is clear evidence that a range of organic foods contain more beneficial nutrients and vitamins and less of things known to have a detrimental health effect such as saturated fats and nitrates."
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The new research, highlighted in Chemistry and Industry magazine, was carried out by Dr Maria Amodio and Dr Adel Kader, from the University of California Davies.

Writing in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, they said: "All the main mineral constituents were more concentrated in the organic kiwi fruit, which also had higher asorbic acid (vitamin C) and total polyphenol content, resulting in higher antioxidant activity.

"It is possible that conventional growing practices utilise levels of pesticides that can result in a disruption to phenolic metabolites in the plant that have a protective role in plant defence mechanisms."

The researchers compared organic and non-organic kiwis grown next to each other on a farm in Marysville, California, at the same time. They found levels of sugars and acids were almost identical, so the flavour would be similar.

The organic fruit was darker and had thicker skin - likely to have developed as part of its defence against pests in the absence of pesticides.

It had 17 per cent more polyphenols - antioxidants that reduce the production in the body of harmful chemicals called free radicals. The organic produce was also found to have 14 per cent more vitamin C and greater concentrations of several important minerals such as potassium and calcium.

But Dr Carl Winter, also from the California University, questioned whether the increased levels would have any real impact on health.

A recent study found that a pint of organic milk has 68 per cent more omega 3 fatty acids - important for normal brain functioning - than other milk.