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ORGANIC FOOD – food quality and potential health effects. A review of current knowledge, and a discussion of uncertainties

Mie, Axel and Wivstad, Maria (2015) ORGANIC FOOD – food quality and potential health effects. A review of current knowledge, and a discussion of uncertainties. SLU, EPOK – Centre for Organic Food & Farming, Uppsala, Sweden.

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In this report, we try to approach the question “Is organic food healthier than conventional food?” from a scientific perspective. We can conclude that science does not provide a clear answer to this question. A small number of animal studies and epidemiological studies on health effects from the consumption of organic vs. conventional feed/food have been performed. These studies indicate that the production system of the food has some influence on the immune system of the consuming animal or human. However, such effects are not easily interpreted as positive or negative for health. The chemical composition of plants is affected by the production system; however, the relevance for human health is unclear, and when one focuses on single compounds such as vitamins, the picture is diffuse with small differences between production systems but large variations between studies. The composition of dairy products is definitely influenced by the organic vs. conventional husbandry systems due to different feeding regimes in these systems. From today’s knowledge of the functions of fatty acids, the composition of organic milk is more favorable for humans than the composition of conventional milk, due to a higher content of omega-3 fatty acids. However, less is known about other animal products, and dairy fats contribute little to the population’s intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids, so the importance for human health is
small. For pesticides, organic food consumption substantially lowers pesticide exposure. According to European governmental bodies, pesticide residues in food are unlikely to have long-term effects on the health of consumers. There are however some important epidemiological studies, and uncertainties in pesticide regulation that may justify a precautionary approach for vulnerable population groups.
All the small pieces of evidence collected in this report justify more attention being paid to conducting epidemiological studies on the preference for organic vs. conventional food. From animal studies (namely on chicken health), from functional knowledge of fatty acids, and from epidemiological studies of pesticide effects, it would be possible to formulate interesting research hypotheses that could be tested in long-term studies of humans, dedicated to investigating potential health effects of conventional vs. organic food.

EPrint Type:Report
Keywords:Organic food, health, food quality, health effects
Agrovoc keywords:
Organic foods
Health foods
public health
Animal health
Pesticide residues
Food quality
Subjects: Food systems > Food security, food quality and human health
Research affiliation: Sweden
Sweden > Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU)
Sweden > Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) > SLU Centre for organic Food and Farming, Epok
Related Links:http://www.slu.se/epok
Deposited By: Nordlund Othén, Janne
ID Code:29439
Deposited On:16 Nov 2015 13:12
Last Modified:16 Nov 2015 13:12
Document Language:English
Refereed:Not peer-reviewed

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