Abstract: The paper gives an overview of recent studies investigating the health value of organic foods and presents a framework for estimating the scientific impact of these studies. Furthermore, the problems connected with the different research approaches are being discussed. A number of comparative studies showed lower nitrate contents and less pesticide residues, but usually higher levels of vitamin C and phenolic compounds in organic plant products, as well as higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid in milk from organically raised animals. However, the variation in outcomes of comparative studies is very high, depending on plant fertilization, ripening stage and plant age at harvest, and weather conditions. Moreover, there appeared no simple relationship between nutritional value and health effects. It is difficult therefore to draw conclusions from analytical data about the health effects of organic foods. Some in vitro studies comparing health-related properties of organic vs conventional foods showed higher antioxidative and antimutagenic activity as well as better inhibition of cancer cell proliferation of organically produced food. If 'health effects' are defined as effects on defined diseases in humans, evidence for such effects is presently lacking. Animal studies carried out so far have demonstrated positive effects of an organic diet on weight, growth, fertility indices and immune system. Recent human epidemiological studies associated consumption of organic foods with lower risks of allergies, whereas findings of human intervention studies were still ambiguous. The hypothesis might be that organic food increases the capacity of living organisms towards resilience. To confirm this, effect studies on specific markers for health are necessary. (C) 2011 Royal Netherlands Society for Agricultural Sciences. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Reference: Huber, M, et. al. (2011). Organic food and impact on human health: Assessing the status quo and prospects of research. NJAS-Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences 58(3-4) Special Issue: 103-109. Available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.njas.2011.01.004