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Around the world, more and more people are realizing the nutritional benefits of organic foods. Organically grown foods retain more substantial nutrients within the food. You can see it in the rich color and taste it with each bite. Organic foods may cost a little more, but they save money by helping reduce illness. The body takes in more nutrients and antioxidants through organic food. This helps the body to fight disease by boosting the immune system.
However there are many people out to prove that the nutritional benefits of organic foods is not there. There have been more studies and reports coming out of the media debunking the nutritional benefits of organic foods. Last week The Times Online reported that a study found no health benefits to organic foods (1). The problem with these studies is that they are not complete reflections of the actual nutritional benefit overall. Not only that, they deceive the public by not revealing what dangers do lurk in commercially grown foods.
The latest study comes from The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and was published in July 2009(2). The study narrowed its data to over 20 different nutrients and other substances found in food crops and livestock raised for food consumption. The study concluded that overall there was no significant difference between commercially grown food and their organic counterparts. Interestingly, the same study does report differences in levels of nitrogen, magnesium, zinc, flavonoids and dry matter in produce. It also shows higher levels of trans fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids in livestock. The higher levels were all in organic foodstuffs except for nitrogen.
Nitrogen is beneficial to plants and humans. Life cannot be supported without nitrogen. Only a few organisms can take nitrogen gas and transform it into a “fixed” nutrient. Nature uses itself to balance this vital element among life. In the early 1900’s all of that changed when mankind found a way to chemically produce fixed nitrogen.
The success of chemical produced nitrogen led to the commercialization of it. Now crops could be grown bigger and quicker. This gave boon to the agriculture industry. Chemically fixed nitrogen became a key ingredient in fertilizer in the 1960’s. Since that time, fertilizers use a quadrupled across the globe. All of this chemically fixed nitrogen has given way to nitrogen pollution that has filled our waterways and our atmosphere(3).
Nitrogen also can have negative health effects when the body accumulates too much nitrogen. The Public Affairs Journal reports that high levels of nitrogen can cause birth defects and miscarriages. It has even been linked to the spread of contagious disease among humans and animals. Nitrogen was the one nutrient that the London study found to be higher in commercially raised food.
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The nutrients found to be higher in organic food may not be of a significant benefit on the surface of the study. However there was a key ingredient that requires more attention…dry matter. Dry matter refers to solid food without the water. It is the ratio between actual solid food product minus its water weight. Dry matter is where the nutrients are most active and do the body the most good. Does this reflect contradictions to their own conclusions?
Then there are chemicals that the study did not include. Herbicides, pesticides, and other dangerous chemicals that are used to control disease and pests in commercially grown crops. There are studies that show these by-products of commercially grown food are in the food that is consumed by the public (4). Keep in mind as well, the hormones and chemical injections that are given to livestock commercially to get a “product” out to market quicker.
It does not take a study to show the nutritional benefits of organic food. Common sense says that consuming something that has traces of poison is not healthy for the body. No agency knows for sure the long-term effects of continued intake of herbicides and pesticides.
The nutritional benefits of organic food are not always about what you are taking into your body. It is also about what you are taking in as well. More dry matter in organic food means more direct nutritional value per pound than commercially raised food. Organic food also does not have the by-products of chemical alterations. Organic food is not only beneficial to you but also the planet.
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(1) The Times Online; "Organic Food Has No Health Benefits, Study Finds" http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/food_and_drink/real_food/article6731910.ece
(2)London School Of Hygiene and Trpoical Medicine; http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/organicreviewappendices.pdf
(3)Public Affairs Journal http://www.publicaffairsjournal.com/?q=node/36
(4)Organic Consumers association; What Types of Produce Have the Highest and Lowest Levels of Pesticide Residues? http://www.organicconsumers.org/organic/pesticide-residues.cfm