Organically grown fruits and vegetable are healthier than conventionally grown products. A US study reports that organic food may improve your blood pressure and lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.
A ten-year study comparing organic tomatoes with standard produce found almost double the level of flavonoids - a type of antioxidant. It contained higher levels of quercetin and kaempferol aglycones than their conventionally grown counterparts.
AdvertisementFlavonoids have been shown to reduce high blood pressure, lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Alyson Mitchell, a food chemist, who led the research at the University of California, believes that flavonoids can also help to stave off some forms of cancer and dementia.
Dr Alyson Mitchell and colleagues measured the amount of two flavonoids - quercetin and kaempferol - in dried tomato samples that had been collected as part of a long-term study on agricultural methods.
They found that on average they were 79% and 97% higher respectively in the organic tomatoes than in the conventionally grown fruit. Recent research in Europe found that organic tomatoes contained more vitamin C, B-carotene and flavonoids than conventionally grown tomatoes. Organic peaches and organic apple purée were also found to have more antioxidants.
Scientists said the nitrogen level in the soil was different, suggesting the lower levels of flavonoids found in regular tomatoes were due to over fertilization.
Flavonoids are produced as a defense mechanism that can be triggered by nutrient deficiency, such as a lack of nitrogen in the soil. The inorganic nitrogen in conventional fertilizer is easily available to plants and so, the researchers suggests, the lower levels of flavonoids are probably caused by over-fertilization.
A recent review, published in the journal Nutrition Bulletin and authored by Claire Williamson from the British Nutrition Foundation, stated that the overall body of science does not support the view that organic food is more nutritious than conventionally grown food.
"Organic farming represents a sustainable method of agriculture that avoids the use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides and makes use of crop rotation and good animal husbandry to control pests and diseases," wrote Williamson. "From a nutritional perspective, there is currently not enough evidence to recommend organic foods over conventionally produced foods."
Gerry Hayman, the technical expert of the British Tomatoes Growers' is unsure about the findings.
"We use similar growing techniques here whether the tomatoes are organic or not, so the nutrients are of a high standard,"
"Our long-standing advice on organic food is there can be some nutrient differences but it doesn't mean it's necessarily better for you."
For example, a recent study found that organic milk had higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, but the FSA points out that these short-chain fatty acids do not seem to have the health promoting benefits offered by long-chain omega-3 oils found in oily fish.
The Soil Association is now pressing the Food Standards Agency to review its guidance on the merits of organic as opposed to conventional fruit and vegetables. Peter Melchett, its policy director, said that there was now a rapidly growing body of evidence which showed significant differences between the nutritional composition of organic and non organic food.