Healthy eating?

The Column

The Column, The Column-12-07-2010, Volume 6, Issue 22

Whether organic produce provides any actual health benefits is still controversial, and a recent study of organic carrots, onions and potatoes has claimed that the process may add nothing at all.

Organic food has increased in popularity over recent years, with environmental protection, increased animal welfare, taste and freshness all cited as important reasons for this demand. Whether organic produce provides any actual health benefits is still controversial, and a recent study of organic carrots, onions and potatoes has claimed that the process may add nothing at all.

Differences between organic and conventional agricultural processes can affect the nutrient content of plants; however previous studies have generated conflicting results. Many of these failed to take geographical locations and growth season into account, which a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry aimed to address.1

A group of bioactive secondary plant metabolites called polyphenols have been speculated to have positive health effects, including a decreased risk of heart diseases, dementia and cancer. The study compared selected polyphenols — flavonoids and phenolic acids — to determine the effect of the growth systems. Plants were analysed by pressurized liquid extraction and high‑performance liquid chromatography–ultraviolet quantification and seven flavonoids were detected in onions as well as one and three phenolic acids in carrots and potatoes, respectively. A significant year-to-year variation of one flavanoid in onions was observed but according to the study no other significant differences between systems was found.

According to the researchers, “on the basis of the present study carried out under well-controlled conditions, it cannot be concluded that organically grown onions, carrots and potatoes generally have higher contents of health‑promoting secondary metabolites in comparison with the conventionally cultivated ones.”

1. M. Soltoft et al., J. Agric. Food Chem., 58, 10323–10329 (2010).

This story originally appeared in The Column. Click here to view that issue.