Organic packaged foods are healthier than conventional products, study finds
(Beyond pesticides, Sept. 21, 2021) Processed organic foods are healthier than their conventional chemical-intensive counterparts in many ways, according to a new peer-reviewed study published in the journal Nutrients led by scientists from the Environmental Working Group. While a regular diet of whole, unprocessed foods is ideal, packaged foods are ubiquitous in American supermarkets and often unavoidable. In addition to eliminating concerns about the use of highly toxic pesticides, according to this new research, choosing packaged organic products is an effective way to avoid highly processed ingredients associated with adverse health effects.
The researchers started with a food data set comprising more than 72,000 conventional foods and 8,000 packaged organic foods, representing 85% of all food products sold to American consumers. These products and their ingredients were then classified into four groups corresponding to the amount of processing, one being unprocessed or minimally processed and four being ultra-processed. Statistical analysis was then conducted on a range of product variables to differentiate various health issues between organic and conventional products.
The results show that organic packaged foods present far fewer health problems than conventional products. Processed organics were likely to contain lower amounts of salt, saturated fat, sugar, and added sugar. According to the analysis conducted by the researchers, for each ultra-processed ingredient in a product, the probability that that product is organic has decreased by 32%. The same is true for a range of factors of concern – the chances of a product being organic also decreased as sugar, salt and trans fats were added to conventional foods. On the other hand, organic products are associated with higher amounts of potassium in processed foods.
“Here, with the discovery that the chances of being labeled organic decreased as the number of ultra-processed ingredients or the number of cosmetic additives increased, we show that the certification of organic products can be an approximation for products. less ultra-processed and therefore healthier, ”the study reads. These findings appear to correspond to research published in November 2020, concluding that consuming organic foods reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Although there is ample evidence to link this finding to the use of toxic pesticides. disrupting the endocrine system in conventional agriculture, this study shows that the ingredient label also plays an important role.
In a series of previous studies, it was found that organic options are healthier than foods with high chemical intensity. A 2010 study found that organically grown strawberries had a longer shelf life, higher antioxidant activity, and higher concentrations of vitamin C and other phenolic compounds. Research published in 2016 found that organic dairy and dairy products were richer in essential nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids than conventional chemically-grown products, and a 2018 study found similar results in organic cows. , especially those fed on grass. In 2019, an Australian research team found that organic even makes a difference when it comes to the microbiome, with organic apples containing much more diverse bacterial communities that are ultimately healthier for the gut.
With the level of processing, ingredient profiles, nutrient and antioxidant content, and microbial diversity all providing evidence of health benefits over conventionally produced and processed foods, it is no wonder that Recent research published in July this year found that students who eat organic products score higher on cognitive tests.
While processed organic products have a better health profile than chemically intensive foods, it is essential that they stay that way. Agrochemical companies that have long specialized in ultra-processed conventional foods want to produce organic equivalents and regularly lobby the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to authorize new risky additives. At present, less than 40 synthetic materials are allowed in certified organic processing according to the national list of permitted and prohibited substances. It is extremely important that, in order to preserve the health benefits of organic products, this list is not expanded, but reduced.
Beyond Pesticides strives to keep consumers informed of the latest in organic production and processing through the Keeping Organic Strong program page. It is only through the continued engagement of consumers in the standard setting process that we can ensure that organic integrity will be maintained. For example, although the controversial carrageenan food additive was removed from the national list by the NOSB in 2016, the national organic program failed to remove it. While most processors have phased out its use, we are using consumers to tell the NOSB to insist that the material be removed from the list once and for all.
Join Beyond Pesticides in calling on the NOSB to make decisions that maintain the integrity of the organic label by reviewing the Fall 2021 issues page and providing a comment to the NOSB by September 30, 2021.
All positions and opinions not attributed in this article are those of Beyond Pesticides.