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A comprehensive review of 97 published studies comparing the nutritional quality of organic and conventional foods shows that organic plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, and grains) contain higher levels of eight of 11 nutrients studied, including significantly greater concentrations of the health-promoting polyphenols and antioxidants, according to a new report published by The Organic Center, based in Boulder, Colo.
The report is published as a "State of Science Review" and is entitled "New Evidence Confirms the Nutritional Superiority of Plant-based Organic Foods." The co-authors are Charles Benbrook, the Organic Center's chief scientist, Xin Zhao of the University of Florida, and three Washington State University (WSU) scientists: Jaime Yez, Neal Davies, and Preston Andrews.
In the report, which The Organic Center claims is the first comprehensive review of the scientific literature comparing nutrient levels in organic and conventional food completed since 2003, the scientists conclude that organically grown plant-based foods are 25 percent more nutrient dense, on average, and hence deliver more essential nutrients per serving or calorie consumed.
Nutrient levels were studied in 236 matched pairs of foods with scientifically valid results on the levels of 10 nutrients, plus nitrates (high levels are undesirable because of food safety risks). Each matched pair contains, for example, an apple crop grown organically and another apple crop from a nearby conventional farm with similar soils, climate, plant genetics, irrigation systems, nitrogen levels, and harvest practices.
The full report and its executive summary are freely accessible on the Center's website (http://www.organic-center.org/science.nutri.php?action=view&report_id=126).
Commenting on the results, Davies, a professor in the School of Pharmacology at Washington State University, said, "We have carried out many careful comparisons of both nutrient levels and biological activity of antioxidant polyphenols in organic and conventional foods over the last five years. Not only are we seeing a general trend in favor of the nutrient density of organic food, but also evidence that nutrients are often present in organic foods in a more biologically active form."
The Organic Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 2002 to generate and advance credible, peer-reviewed scientific research and information on the health and environmental benefits of organic food and farming; and to communicate those benefits to the public through education, resources, and information.