Large study finds up to 40 percent more antioxidants in organic fruits and vegetables and many more antioxidants and omega-3s in organic milk
by Craig Weatherby
Pardon the pun, but the good news about organic crops just keeps on growing.
Researchers from Britain’s Newcastle University found that organic crops contain more beneficial antioxidants than crops grown conventionally, with agrichemicals.
Organic methods add to
proven benefits of produce
The authors of the new study offer this rationale for their investigation of phytochemical content of organic versus conventional crops (with our clarifications in brackets [ ]):
“…vegetable crops contain particular secondary metabolites (e.g. phenolics, glucosinolates, other organic sulphur compounds, sesquiterpene lactones, fructans), which have shown beneficial pharmacological properties such as anti-neoplasia [tumor-preventive], antioxidant, anti-allergic effects, platelet aggregation inhibition [lessen blood stickiness], interference with cancer promotion mechanisms and probiotic [nurture friendly digestive bacteria] activity.”
“These compounds are therefore thought to be involved in the well-documented beneficial effects of vegetable consumption on health.”
These results stem from a very large study, and affirm prior findings.
During the four-year project, researchers raised cattle and grew fruits and vegetables on farm sites across Europe and Northumberland, dividing them between organic and conventional methods.
Preliminary results show that the organic fruit and vegetables produced up to 40 percent more antioxidants—and other beneficial food factors—than their conventionally grown counterparts (QLFI 2007).
When they analyzed organic and conventional milk, they found antioxidant levels were as much as 60 percent higher in organic milk (QLFI 2007).
The team’s prior, extensive survey of milk from organic and conventional dairies across Europe found that organic milk also has significantly higher levels of beneficial fatty acids—omega-3s, vaccenic acid, and CLA—plus higher levels of beneficial antioxidants like vitamin E, beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin (Leifert C et al 2007).
A preponderance of scientific evidence indicates that diets high in fruit and vegetables can help prevent or ameliorate cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and senility, and most evidence points to their antioxidants and other compounds produced in response to environmental stresses.
Plants produce antioxidants primarily to defend against microbes and fungi.
As we’ve reported, it now appears that organic crops are higher in antioxidants and other beneficial food factors precisely because they lack the protection provided by pesticides, and must provide their own, to our benefit.
Analysis of crops, milk, and meat produced by the project continues, and more results will be released through 2008. The study is part of the Quality Low Input Food Project, which is funded by the European Commission.
- Quality Low Input Food Project (QLFI). Workpackage 2.2: Effect of livestock management practices (organic, “low input” and conventional) on the nutritional quality and safety of foods. Accessed online November 18, 2007 at http://www.qlif.org/research/sub2/wp2.html
- Quality Low Input Food Project. Workpackage 2.1: Effect of crop management practices (organic, “low input” and conventional) on the nutritional quality of foods. Accessed online November 18, 2007 at http://www.qlif.org/research/sub2/wp1.html
- Leifert C, Rembialkowska E, Nielson JH, Cooper JM, Butler G, Lueck L. (2007) Quantifying the effect of organic and ‘low input’ production methods on food quality and safety and human health. In: Niggli, U. et al. (Eds) (2007): Proceedings of the 3rd International Congress of the European Integrated Project Quality Low Input Food (QLIF). FiBL, Frick, Switzerland
- Niggli U, Leifert C. Improving the quality and safety of organic and low input foods and maximizing the benefits to consumers and producers. 3rd QLIF Congress, Hohenheim, Germany, March 20-23, 2007. Accessed online November 18, 2007 at http://orgprints.org/10595/01/niggli-leifert-2007-overview.pdf.