Organically grown foods generally hold more nutrition value than conventionally grown foods, according to a study co-authored by three WSU researchers.
According to the study, organic plant-based foods contain higher levels of eight of 11 nutrients studied, including significantly greater concentrations of the health-promoting polyphenols and antioxidants.
The study, co-authored by professor Neal Davies of the WSU College of Pharmacy, horticulture professor Preston Andrews and Jaime Yanez, Davies’ graduate student, is the first in-depth review of the published scientific literature on the nutritional benefits of organic food completed since 2003, Andrews said.
“Where there were overall combined results, there was a bigger difference more frequently in favor of organic foods,” Andrews said.
The study concluded that organically grown plant-based foods are on average 25 percent more nutrient dense, thus delivering more essential nutrients per serving or calorie consumed.
In the study, nutrient levels were examined in 236 matched pairs of foods with scientifically valid results on the levels of 10 nutrients. Each matched pair contains one crop grown organically and another crop grown conventionally with similar soils, climate, plant genetics, irrigation systems, nitrogen levels and harvest practices, Andrews said.
The hopeful impact of this study, he said, is by sharing information such as the results to eventually have a more nutrient-dense food supply throughout the world.
“This way farmers can know what aspects of organic farming contribute to higher nutrient contents so they can use that knowledge to build a better food supply,” Andrews said. “It should also help push for a movement of more purchasing of organically grown foods.”
The study is a combination of many previous studies comparing the nutritional value of organically grown foods to conventionally grown foods, Andrews said. Since the last review was published in 2003, there have been more than 40 new studies released that are vital to the understanding of the comparison. The inclusion of the studies was based on validity, he said, so not all were integrated into the final report.
“We are updating this study as we go,” Andrews said. “When it gets published, we will have all the new studies included in it as well.”
However, the study is currently only available online and is waiting to be reviewed and published in a scientific journal before it will receive more media coverage, Andrews said.
“It is still in the preliminary stages as of yet,” he said. “We hope to have it published by sometime late this summer.”
The new report is published as a “State of Science Review” on the Organic Center website and is titled “New Evidence Confirms the Nutritional Superiority of Plant-based Organic Foods.” The study is also co-authored by Organic Center chief scientist Charles Benbrook and Xin Zhao of the University of Florida.