DR. MOHLER: Are organic foods healthier or safer? | PostIndependent.com

DR. MOHLER: Are organic foods healthier or safer?

Phil Mohler, M.D.
Free Press Health Columnist

Is a trip to the more expen$ive organic foods section of your grocery store wise? A Stanford study published last fall in the Annals of Internal Medicine creates some doubt!

In the largest and most exhaustive review ever, 17 studies in humans and 223 studies of nutrient and contaminant levels in foods were included.

Here’s what the authors found:

• Only three of the human studies examined clinical outcomes, finding no significant differences between populations by food farming type for the allergic outcomes of eczema and wheezing.

• Organic produce had a 30 percent lower risk of pesticide contamination than conventional fruits and vegetables, but the pesticide levels of all foods generally fell within the allowable safety limits.

• Two studies of children consuming organic and conventional diets did find lower levels of pesticide residues in the urine of children on organic diets, though the significance of these findings on child health is unclear.

• Escherichia coli and Salmonella contamination risk in chicken and pork did not differ between organic and conventional produce.

• The risk for isolating bacteria resistant to three or more antibiotics was higher in conventional than in organic chicken and pork.


The published studies lack significant evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods. There is scant evidence that conventional foods pose greater health risks than organic products. Although consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, there is no evidence that this means anything important for your health. There are other reasons to buy organic instead of conventional. Taste preferences and concerns about the effects of conventional farming practices on the environment and animal welfare are some of the reasons people choose organic products.

Dr. Mohler has practiced family medicine in Grand Junction for 38 years. He has a particular interest in pharmaceutical education. Phil works part-time for both Primary Care Partners and Rocky Mountain Health Plans.

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