Newcastle Study Non-technical Summary
Study Authors: Marcin Barański, Dominika Średnicka-Tober, Nikolaos Volakakis, Chris Seal, Roy Sanderson, Gavin B. Stewart, Charles Benbrook, Bruno Biavati, Emilia Markellou, Charilaos Giotis, Joanna Gromadzka-Ostrowska, Ewa Rembiałkowska, Krystyna Skwarło-Sońta, Raija Tahvonen, Dagmar Janovská, Urs Niggli, Philippe Nicot, and Carlo Leifert
The study entitled “Higher antioxidant concentrations, less cadmium, and pesticide residues in 2 organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses” by Barański et. al shows conclusive evidence that organic crops, and the food made from them, are more healthy than their conventional counterparts. In this study, researchers conducted a meta-analysis on 342 peer-reviewed publications looking at the health benefits of organic agriculture, and found that organic crops have higher antioxidant levels, lower cadmium levels, and less pesticide residues than non-organic crops.
Specifically, they found that organic crops had significantly higher antioxidants than conventional crops, including 19% higher levels of phenolic acids, 69% higher levels of flavanones, 28% higher levels of stilbenes, 26% higher levels of flavones, 50% higher levels of flavonols, and 51% higher levels of anthocyanins. These antioxidants have been linked to decreases in chronic disease risks such as cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and certain cancers. The levels at which they found antioxidant benefits in organic crops show that switching from a conventional to an organic diet results in a 20-40% (and for some compounds more than 60%) increase in antioxidants. This means that the amount of extra beneficial antioxidants one would consume every day by eating the recommended five servings of organic instead of conventional fruit and vegetables would be equal to one to two additional servings of conventionally grown produce.
The study also found fewer pesticide residues and lower toxic metal levels in organic versus conventional food. Conventional crops had four times more pesticide residues than organic crops. Exposure to pesticides has been found to affect brain development, especially in young children, and pose a greater risk for pregnant women and to men and women of reproductive age. The study also found that organic crops had on average 48 percent lower cadmium levels than conventional crops. Cadmium is a highly toxic metal that can cause kidney failure, bone softening and liver damage. It can accumulate in the body, so even at low levels chronic exposure is dangerous. Its toxicity is such that it is one of only three toxic metal contaminants (the other two being lead and mercury) for which the European Commission has set maximum residue levels (MRL) in foods.
The findings of this study strongly support the health benefits of organic food. Learn more about the study by visiting our Q & A page and our press release about the study. You can also download our infographic here!