Stocking up on organic foods? You’ll want to read this before throwing them into the shopping cart.
For the past decade, people have bought organic products thinking they’re the healthier option. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), however, has released a report stating that organic products may not offer as many nutritional benefits as people think. The AAP also, for the first time ever, offered advice for pediatricians when it comes to talking with patients about feeding their children organic foods.
The report, released today on the AAP website, analyzed several studies regarding organic and nonorganic (or conventionally grown) foods, and the results were mixed. When examining produce, the AAP says that “many studies demonstrate no important differences in carbohydrates or vitamin or mineral content.” That being said, some studies found lower levels of nitrates in organic products, which could be beneficial, given the link of nitrates to cancer and methemoglobinemia (a blood disorder) in infants. Studies also found that organic foods “contain more vitamin C and phosphorus than conventionally grown foods.”
When analyzing the studies of milk — often a big part of kids’ diets — the AAP found that “milk has the same protein, vitamin, trace mineral contents and lipids (fats) from both organically and conventionally reared cows.” Even if the cow is injected with growth hormone (GH), which is said to increase milk production, the AAP found that “90 percent of the GH in milk is destroyed during the pasteurization process” and the remaining 10 percent has no affect on humans.
The study also examined the use of steroids in meat and their effect on people. While several studies found an association between conventionally reared red-meat products and early development of puberty, the AAP failed to find a correlation between the two. The same was true for the connection between steroids in red meat and increased risk of breast cancer.
Despite the many benefits associated with conventionally grown foods, the AAP did find one negative aspect of these products: pesticide exposure. The study found that chronic exposure among farm workers led to many health problems, and prenatal pesticide exposure has been associated with “decreased birth weight and length and smaller head circumference.” The study also stated that in children, the primary exposure to pesticides is through consumption, and consuming organic produce “reduces human exposure.”
So what does that mean for your grocery shopping? The AAP says families’ priority should be eating an “optimally healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat or fat-free milk and dairy products.” If you prefer organic foods and can afford them (organic foods can cost 10 to 40 percent more than nonorganic foods), the AAP doesn’t discourage it. It does, however, advise parents to be aware that not every organic item is the healthier option.
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