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Matter of taste, but normal food is healthy as organic - study

ORGANIC food is no better for you than that traditionally grown even though it may taste better, researchers have said.

Despite the perception that organic food grown without artificial fertilisers, pesticides and other chemicals, is more pure, nutritious and virtuous, scientists have said there is little evidence that it is healthier.

A review of 237 research studies into organic food found the products were 30pc less likely to contain pesticide residue than conventionally grown fruit and vegetables but were not necessarily 100pc free of the chemicals. They found no consistent differences in the vitamin content of organic products.

There were higher levels of phosphorus in organically grown food but the researchers said this was of little importance as so few people were deficient in this. The only other significant finding was that some studies suggested organic milk contained higher levels of omega-3 fatty acid, which is thought to be important for brain development in infants and for cardiovascular health.

Dr Crystal Smith-Spangler, of Stanford's Centre for Health Policy, said "we were a little surprised" by the results but that people should eat more fruit and vegetables, no matter how they were grown.

Dr Dena Bravata, a fellow researcher, said that, beyond perceived health benefits, people bought organic products because of taste, concerns about the effects of farming practices on the environment and animal welfare. The research was published in the 'Annals of Internal Medicine' journal.

The group cited two studies comparing children consuming organic and conventional diets, which found lower levels of pesticide residue in the urine of children on organic diets, though the levels of pesticides in both groups of children were below safety thresholds.

Organic chicken and pork also appeared to reduce exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, but the researchers said the health implications of this were not clear. The group said the research was difficult because of the various ways organic food was tested as well as factors such as weather, soil and farming methods.

Prof Alan Dangour, a senior lecturer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the review showed that "there are no convincing differences between organic and conventional foods in nutrient content or health-benefits". (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent