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There is no scientific evidence that organic food is healthier than conventional food

There is no scientific evidence that organic food is healthier than conventional food

The effect of the consumption of organic products on the risk of cancer and general health is uncertain, according to a new Nutrimedia evaluation directed by Gonzalo Casino, professor at the Department of Communication.

05.04.2019

 

In the light of current scientific evidence, health does not seem to be a reason for eating organic food. A new evaluation by Nutrimedia shows that it is uncertain or doubtful that organically produced food reduces the risk of cancer or has a beneficial effect on health compared to conventional food.

Nutrimedia is a project of the Science Communication Observatory (OCC) of the Department of Communication at UPF, in collaboration with the Iberoamerican Cochrane Center supported by the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT), which scientifically analyses the degree of veracity of messages about food and health, while offering tools to interpret the results of research.

Awareness of the lower environmental impact of organic farming and the possibility of encouraging local producers are two of the reasons for preferring the consumption of these products

In recent years there has been an upward trend in the consumption of ecological, organic or bio products, despite being more expensive than their conventional counterparts. Awareness of the lower environmental impact of organic farming and the possibility of encouraging local producers are two of the reasons for preferring the consumption of such products, although the main ones are health and avoiding exposure to pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, according to a poll in 2017 by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture. However, the risk of exposure to pesticides by Europeans through food is low in the short and long term, according to a report in 2016 by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Organic food and cancer

“It is difficult to know whether the effect observed is due to a healthier lifestyle of the population that consumes organic products”.

Although some studies have found a lower risk of cancer among consumers of organic food, the Nutrimedia evaluation concludes that the degree of certainty of the results of the available research is very low, and it is doubtful that they have a beneficial effect on health. This is because, firstly, few studies have looked into the effects of organic food on health and, secondly, the available studies are observational and also have significant methodological limitations that reduce the veracity of the results. Pablo Alonso Coello, the author of the report and a researcher at the Iberoamerican Cochrane Center, adds that the lack of confidence in the results is also due to the fact that “it is difficult to know whether the effect observed is due to a healthier lifestyle of the population that consumes organic products”.

The report highlights that “although some studies show better nutritional profiles in organic than in conventional food, the differences are usually small and probably irrelevant for people who follow a proper diet”. So, while the beneficial effects of eating fruit and vegetables are well documented, for the time being it is not possible to know whether their organic versions provide any additional benefits.

Evaluation: https://tinyurl.com/yymyedhd

Full technical report: https://tinyurl.com/y3cceh3k

Healthy scepticism of information

To promote critical thinking with regard to messages concerning food and health, Nutrimedia has developed a series of videos to identify reliable information sources;

find out how project evaluations are carried out,

how the type of studies carried out influence the confidence of the research results and

how the degree of veracity is determined,

how to interpret the tables that summarize the findings of the investigations and

what guidelines can help to interpret news about food and health.

In addition, some messages evaluated are also complemented with videos and Nutrimedia has also added the section Eating with science, in which experts answer questions about food via articles and podcasts.

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