Once again: No nutritional difference between organic and regular food

Organic food is not safer than conventional food. Organic food is not more sustainable than regular food. Organic food is not more nutritious than other food.

Organic is more expensive than other food, and verification of organic production practices is specious at best.

Russ Parsons of the Los Angeles Times figured this out a few weeks ago and wrote a column that began,

"I don’t believe in organics."

This morning he revisited the topic, noted that organics is an article of faith for a lot of people, highlighted some hate mail, and most surprising, revealed that mail supporting Parsons’ column was overwhelmingly positive by a ratio of 5 or 6 to 1.

This afternoon, the U.K. Food Standards Authority released results of a review it commissioned which found,

no important differences in the nutrition content, or any additional health benefits, of organic food when compared with conventionally produced food.

The focus of the review was the nutritional content of foodstuffs.

Gill Fine, FSA Director of Consumer Choice and Dietary Health, said,

“Ensuring people have accurate information is absolutely essential in allowing us all to make informed choices about the food we eat. This study does not mean that people should not eat organic food. What it shows is that there is little, if any, nutritional difference between organic and conventionally produced food and that there is no evidence of additional health benefits from eating organic food.”

The FSA commissioned this research as part of its commitment to giving consumers accurate information about their food, based on the most up-to-date science.

A paper reporting the results of the review of nutritional differences has been peer-reviewed and published today by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Dr Dangour, of the LSHTM’s Nutrition and Public Health Intervention Research Unit, and the principal author of the paper, said:

“A small number of differences in nutrient content were found to exist between organically and conventionally produced crops and livestock, but these are unlikely to be of any public health relevance. Our review indicates that there is currently no evidence to support the selection of organically over conventionally produced foods on the basis of nutritional superiority.”

The Times’ Parsons got it right in his original column when he said,

farming is a complicated enterprise and there is a huge gray area between certified organic and the stereotypical heavy-duty use of chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers.

Furthermore, a lot of the best farming practices of the original organic philosophy — composting, fallowing, crop rotation, the use of nonchemical techniques for controlling most pests — have been adopted by many nonorganic growers, even though they still reserve the right to use chemicals when they think it’s best.

The complete U.K. report is available at http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/organicreviewreport.pdf

Cats eating better than their owners

I’ve just started my first year of veterinary school, and after only two days into the program, I’ve been contacted by at least five pet food companies touting their premium pet food that is healthy for pets and tasty as well.  I suppose that pets enjoy the variety of flavors, but a new study from Australia suggests it’s doing more harm than good.

Deakin University scientist Dr Giovanni Turchini
has discovered an estimated 2.48 million tonnes of forage fish – a limited biological resource – is consumed by the global cat food industry each year.

This puts cats ahead of people as far as consumption rates go; pet cats are eating an estimated 13.7 kilograms of fish a year, which far exceeds the Australian average (human) per capita fish and seafood consumption of around 11 kilograms.

Just as obesity has become a major epidemic among Americans, it is also an epidemic among pets.  These tasty canned foods with enticing flavors such as “shredded yellowfin tuna fare” only encourage pets to grow wider around the belly all while pet food companies continue to cook up new ideas for making cats want their food.

What happened to cats eating regular dry food?  Though, even the dry food goes overboard for Fancy Feast, which touts three different flavors for the finicky cat.  With the slogan of “A bowl full of ‘I love you,’” Fancy Feast has definitely gone overboard in pampering cats.  If you love your pet, then why are you feeding it a high-fat meal?

The luxury products containing fish unfortunately are contributing to the overfishing problem worldwide.

Super foods, super expensive

I read this story yesterday

…many super foods like blueberries are popular because they allow you to enjoy health benefits without skimping on taste. They’re not alone: Super food lists widely vary, but here’s a list of 10 that show up on many nutritionists’ lists and on various Web sites.

The list included: acai, salmon, swiss chard, cherries, green tea, walnuts, blueberries, kefir, brown rice, ground flax seed. Varied ingredients with a common goal – to make you super healthy.

I quickly pulled my shopping list and added a few of those.

I spotted the blueberries – (yes!) – $6 for 2 lb. No way. I’ll stay with strawberries, they are probably almost as healthy anyways.

Walnuts were almost $10 a pack. I’m a college student, I can’t afford a $10 pack of nuts.

I chose the salmon fillets at the fish section, then saw the tilapia filets. It was $8 for salmon vs $3 for tilapia. Guess who won.

I ended up with only two items of my super food list: green tea and brown rice (which was actually a bit more expensive than regular, but bearable).

I guess it was super food, not super cheap. Sorry to find out I can’t afford being super healthy.