Tuesday, October 2

The Debate Over Organic

by Katherine Matutes

I know something has really gotten people into a frenzy when more than 3 people in one day seek out my opinion on a given topic.

In case you missed it, there was a study recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine that questioned the health benefits of organic foods. The article was titled “Are Organic Foods Safer or Healthier Than Conventional Alternatives?: A Systematic Review “  by Dena Bravata MD, MS.

The study provides a good opportunity to talk about health information in the media, and why you shouldn’t abandon your common sense when reading an interpretation of scientific results.

Unfortunately, scientific results are often portrayed in the media in a manner that sensationalizes the information to make it seem more interesting. Sometimes only a portion of the results are presented. Either way, what the public reads appears as a half-truth. It’s not untrue per se, just not an accurate reflection of the big picture. 

With the Bravata study, the New York Times reviewed the data and titled their article “Stanford Scientists Cast Doubt on Advantages of Organic Meat and Produce” and Fox News claimed that “organic food may not be worth the money”.

The problem with this kind of presentation of the information is that it takes the readers focus off the real point of the data. Most people don’t consume organic foods in hopes that it has more nutrition but rather to avoid pesticides or to support farming practices that are more environmentally friendly.

In the study, the researchers did present data that suggested that organic foods did not contain higher nutritional content, but they also showed that children who consumed an organic diet excreted significantly less pesticide residue in their urine when compared to children who did not consume an organic diet.

Is less pesticide residue in the urine healthier? Probably, but that was not addressed in this study, or is it likely to be studied because the question is too complex to study objectively. But common sense says if you want to expose your children to fewer pesticides, going organic does help. 

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