Organic food and impact on human health: Assessing the status quo and prospects of research

NJAS: wageningen journal of life sciences (Impact Factor: 1.14). 12/2011; 58(3-4):103-109. DOI: 10.1016/j.njas.2011.01.004


The paper gives an overview of recent studies investigating the health value of organic foods and presents a framework for estimating the scientific impact of these studies. Furthermore, the problems connected with the different research approaches are being discussed. A number of comparative studies showed lower nitrate contents and less pesticide residues, but usually higher levels of vitamin C and phenolic compounds in organic plant products, as well as higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid in milk from organically raised animals. However, the variation in outcomes of comparative studies is very high, depending on plant fertilization, ripening stage and plant age at harvest, and weather conditions. Moreover, there appeared no simple relationship between nutritional value and health effects. It is difficult therefore to draw conclusions from analytical data about the health effects of organic foods. Some in vitro studies comparing health-related properties of organic vs conventional foods showed higher antioxidative and antimutagenic activity as well as better inhibition of cancer cell proliferation of organically produced food. If ‘health effects’ are defined as effects on defined diseases in humans, evidence for such effects is presently lacking. Animal studies carried out so far have demonstrated positive effects of an organic diet on weight, growth, fertility indices and immune system. Recent human epidemiological studies associated consumption of organic foods with lower risks of allergies, whereas findings of human intervention studies were still ambiguous. The hypothesis might be that organic food increases the capacity of living organisms towards resilience. To confirm this, effect studies on specific markers for health are necessary.

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    • "Peer-reviewed studies confirm the positive effects organic production may have on taste (Castellini et al., 2008), nutritional quality (Lairon, 2010) and animal welfare (Sundrum, 2001). However, with respect to benefits on human health, convincing evidence is lacking (Huber et al. (2011). In agriculture, as in other economic sectors, there often is a tradeoff between quantity and quality. "
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    Journal of Cleaner Production 02/2015; 94. DOI:10.1016/j.jclepro.2015.01.077 · 3.84 Impact Factor
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    • "For example, this technique has increased the levels of vitamin C, phenolic compounds, carotenoids (lycopene and β-carotene), and antioxidant activity (AA) (Huber et al., 2011). In the production of VC, leachates, which are excreted by microorganisms, must be collected to avoid saturation of the production unit. "
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    ABSTRACT: Due to low yields, organic agriculture cannot satisfy the global demand for food, although it can provide products of higher nutraceutical quality. The objective of this research was to incorporate vermicompost leachates (VCLs) into an irrigation system during tomato (Solanum lycopersicum cv. Rafaello) cultivation to evaluate their effects on the lycopene, β-carotene, and phenolic content of tomatoes and on the physical and chemical soil variables. To evaluate the effects of VCLs, three types of substrates were used to create VCLs: mushroom waste (MSHW), leaf-cutting ant waste (LCAW), and cow compost (CC). A total of 0.1 L of leachate per plant was added as a supplement to a nutrient solution (NS) and applied once weekly, twice weekly, or every fifteen days to three different treatments for each leachate. All VCLs had a positive effect on the production of lycopene; the best results were obtained by the application of the MSHW (78 mg kg-1 fresh weight). The VCL decreased the presence of ions phytotoxic to plants by 99% and improved the soil structure by increasing the amount of organic matter and the hydraulic conductivity. However, the VCL had no effect on the physiological variables. The results support the use of leachate from CC via fertigation twice a week at a dose of 0.1 L plant -1 because it increases lycopene content by 67%. © 2015, Sociedad Chilena de la Ciencia del Suelo. All rights reserved.
    12/2014; 15(ahead). DOI:10.4067/S0718-95162015005000005
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    • "An increase in phenolic compounds production by plants with the purpose of increasing the natural defenses is described by García-Mier et al. (2013). Additionally, Huber et al. (2011) reviewed several studies showing higher antioxidative and antimutagenic activities and better inhibition of cancer cell proliferation of organically produced foods when compared to conventionally produced foods. In our experiment, the largest differences between the systems were because of the nutrient supply and weed management . "
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    ABSTRACT: Lunasin is a plant peptide that has health benefits such as cancer-preventing, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cholesterol-lowering effects. However, there is actually no information on the influence of cropping on the lunasin content of cereals. Therefore, we studied lunasin in 22 spring barley genotypes grown both organically and conventionally during two seasons. We found that lunasin content of barley grain averaged 44.8 mu g/g, ranging from 5.0 to 189.0 mu g/g. Organic farming increased average lunasin content by 47-92 %. Ten out of 22 genotypes produced significantly more lunasin under organic farming in both years. Our findings evidence positive effects of organic farming on lunasin content in barley.
    Agronomy for Sustainable Development 10/2014; 34(4):783-791. DOI:10.1007/s13593-013-0203-4 · 3.99 Impact Factor
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