Article

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

ABSTRACT

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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    • "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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    • "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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    • "Health is an important motivation for the consumption of organic foods, several human epidemiological studies associated consumption of organic foods with lower risks of allergies due to the presence of chemicals (Huber et al., 2011). This issue was enough to increase an abrupt demand for organic agricultural products only a few decades ago. "
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    ABSTRACT: Organic food products have shown to have lower environmental impact and lower presence of chemical residues. Consumers generally have positive attitudes towards organic food because of superior taste, environment-friendliness, health, food safety and animal welfare. During last years, the demand of consumers for organic virgin olive oils have been increased as a result of their high quality image from nutritional and health aspects. In this work sixteen virgin olive oil samples, four obtained by organic and twelve from non-organic cultivation, were analysed by their quality parameters (acidity, peroxide value and UV absorption), fatty acids, sterols and volatile compounds. Quality parameters were not able to discriminate between organic and non-organic samples although significant differences were found in the values of acidity and K 270. Fatty acids and sterols content were able to discriminate samples according to their cultivar but did not show capacity differentiating the samples according to the cultivation system. The results of volatile analysis show that in general terms the organic virgin olive oils showed a higher concentration of volatile compounds, except for the aldehydes, whose concentration was higher in the non-organic oils, and the acids, whose concentration was similar in the both oil classes. The concentration of ketones, aldehydes, and alcohols showed significant variations (p < 0.05) between the two types of oils. © D.L. García-González et al., published by EDP Sciences, 2014.
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