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Eating organic food 'won’t make you healthier'

“Organic food is not healthier,” The Daily Telegraph advises.

The news is based on a review of a large number of studies comparing the health effects of organic foods to conventional foods.

While there is no internationally agreed definition of “organic”, most people understand it to mean:

  • foods grown without the use of artificial fertilisers, pesticides or other chemicals
  • meat taken from animals that have not been given antibiotics or growth hormones

Many champions of organic food, such as Prince Charles, have claimed that food grown organically is healthier and more nutritious.

However, this review found no strong evidence to support the health benefits from eating organic instead of conventional foods. This may come as a relief to the more cash-stretched of us because, as the researchers point out, organic food can often be more expensive than conventionally sourced food.

The researchers did find that organic produce was less likely to be contaminated with pesticides. And any bacteria found in organically produced meat were less likely to be resistant to antibiotics.

Obviously there are other reasons, besides nutrition, that may make people choose organic food, such as concern for the environment.

Ultimately, the findings should be interpreted with some caution. There was a high level of variation between the studies in terms of the methods used, which makes the results of this review less reliable. It is also worth noting that few studies looked at relevant health effects and the studies ran for no longer than two years. This means no conclusions about long-term health benefits of organic foods can be drawn from this research.

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