The study conducted by Charles Benbrook, a Washington State University researcher, analyzed the impact of nutritional quality and safety of organic and conventional plant based foods by analyzing 343 peer reviewed published studies.
The research findings were published in the British Journal of Nutrition and found that in general organic plants contained substantially less pesticide residue with an increased anti-oxidant yield. In general, the team found that organic crops have several nutritional benefits that stem from the way the crops are produced.
The findings were attributed to the fact that a plant on a conventionally managed field will typically have access to high levels of synthetic nitrogen and will use the extra resources into producing sugars and starches. As a result, the harvested portion of the plant will often contain lower concentrations of other nutrients, including health-promoting antioxidants.
Without the synthetic chemical pesticides applied on conventional crops, organic plants tend to produce more phenols and polyphenols to defend against pest attacks and related injuries. In people, phenols and polyphenols can help prevent diseases triggered or promoted by oxidative damage, like coronary heart disease, stroke and certain cancers.
Overall, organic crops had 18 to 69 percent higher concentrations of antioxidant compounds suggesting that consumers who switch to organic fruit, vegetables and cereal would obtain the benefit of 20 to 40 percent more antioxidants.
Nitrogen concentrations were found to be significantly lower in organic crops. Concentrations of total nitrogen were 10%, nitrate 30% and nitrite 87% lower in organic compared to conventional crops. The study also found that pesticide residues were four times more likely to be found in conventional crops than organic ones.
Professor Charles Benbrook, one of the authors of the study and a leading scientist based at Washington State University, explains: “Our results are highly relevant and significant and will help both scientists and consumers sort through the often conflicting information currently available on the nutrient density of organic and conventional plant-based foods.”.
Higher antioxidant concentrations and less cadmium and pesticide residues in organically-grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses.” Baranski, M. et al. British Journal of Nutrition.