Overweight? Hungry? Blame “Hollow Food”

New Studies Back Benefits of Organic Diet: Conventional agriculture produces “hollow food”, with low levels of nutrients and vitamins

wheat harvest sml

By Stephen Leahy

TORONTO, Canada, Mar 4, 2006 (Tierramérica)

(Originally published in 2006, two authoritative 2007 studies with similar findings are referenced at the end)

Organic foods protect children from the toxins in pesticides, while foods grown using modern, intensive agricultural techniques contain fewer nutrients and minerals than they did 60 years ago, according to two new scientific studies.

A U.S. research team from Emory University in Atlanta analysed urine samples from children ages three to 11 who ate only organic foods and found that they contained virtually no metabolites of two common pesticides, malathion and chlorpyrifos. However, once the children returned to eating conventionally grown foods, concentrations of these pesticide metabolites quickly climbed as high as 263 parts per billion, says the study published Feb. 21 (2006).

Organic crops are grown without the chemical pesticides and fertilisers that are common in intensive agriculture.There was a “dramatic and immediate protective effect” against the pesticides while consuming organically grown foods, said Chensheng Lu, an assistant professor at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University.

These findings, in addition to the results of another study published in Britain earlier this month, have fueled the debate about the benefits of organically grown food as compared to conventional, mass-produced foods, involving academics, food and agro-industry executives and activists in the global arena.

According to the new British analysis of government nutrition data on meat and dairy products from the 1930s and from 2002, the mineral content of milk, cheese and beef declined as much as 70 percent in that period.

“These declines are alarming,” Ian Tokelove, spokesman for The Food Commission that published the results of the study, told Tierramérica.

The Commission is a British non-governmental organisation advocating for healthier, safer food. The research found that parmesan cheese had 70 percent less magnesium and calcium, beef steaks contained 55 percent less iron, chicken had 31 percent less calcium and 69 percent less iron, while milk also showed a large drop in iron along with a 21 percent decline in magnesium.

Copper, an important trace mineral (an essential nutrient that is consumed in tiny quantities), also declined 60 percent in meats and 90 percent in dairy products.

“It seems likely that intensive farming methods are responsible for this,” Tokelove said from his office in London.

For the complete story see on New Studies Back Benefits of Organic Diet

New 2007 studies:

Organic tomatoes have higher nutritional value

Organic tomatoes are twice as high in flavanoids as conventional tomatoes. Flavanoids protect against heart disease and other chronic ailments. Researchers analyzed and compared organic to conventional tomatoes over a ten year period. The organic tomatoes not only scored better, but their flavanoid levels actually increased over time.  Scientists attribute the higher quality of organic foods to the healthier soil on organic farms. See study in The Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry

Organic dairy and meat products in a mother’s diet improves nutritional quality of breast milk

Study done by Swiss scientists and published in British Journal of Nutrition is available as pdf at The Cornucopia Institute

Study by U of Michigan that organic farming produces more food per acre that I posted Sept 2007 Organic Provides 3X More Food Per Acre in Poor Countries – podcast

An excellent source of information about organic foods see the Organic Consumers Association

Related posts/stories:

Food Additives Make Kids Hyperactive – Organic Better?

Organic Agriculture Reduces Climate Change, Poverty and Hunger

16 thoughts on “Overweight? Hungry? Blame “Hollow Food”

  1. Oh man.
    You think that you eat healthy and do all the right things, and then you read something like this…
    Makes you do a double check on your health.

  2. What an excellent story! I’ve just spent two weeks down south eating (delicious) fried foods yet I was constantly hungry. Now that I’m getting back to my normal diet, I’m finding that just one organic apple is filling.

  3. This makes sense to me – it’s something I’ve personally hypothosized about for years when I have defended to people why I will choose to eat organic over non-organic even when the price is higher (though I still hate Whole Foods with a passion). Glad to see it’s being verified by real scientific studies. As a vegetarian trying to be vegan – I just wish these studies were not funded by the dairy and meat industry – I’d love to see some further real facts on the nutritional content of fruits and vegetables produced by factory farms’ poor soil compared to those on an organic farm using compost and natural soil enrichment methods for fertilizer. The bit on the difference in flavanoid content of tomatoes for example is astounding.

  4. Andy, the article itself and the updates I added represent a wide range of reputable research groups. I imagine you choose to focus on the Food Commission because you have previously slammed them on your website.

  5. Hi there,

    I mentioned the Food Commission report because it was prominent in your article. The source for most of these claims comes from one rather poorly conducted examination conducted by someone in the business of selling mineral supplements. It is more marketing press release than science.

    In general though, the idea that modern foodstuffs are dangerously short of nutrients does not make much sense and is a startling claim. Plants and animals, like humans, need an adequate source of nutrients to grow. A plant deprived of nutrients does not make a good crop. It appears inconceivable that you can obtain good crop yields and produce a product that is dangerously poor in nutrients. It is a contradiction. Of course, some plant varieties may have higher nutrient contents than other varieties, but there does not appear to be any reason why organic should be naturally better than non-organic. For example, an organic tomato may have to divert more energy to producing chemicals that fight pests as they do not have the benefit of pesticides to do that for them. This may shift the ratios of various nutrients within an organic crop, benefiting some nutrients at the expense of others. You should not rely on the reports of one crop in isolation. There is a much bigger picture.

    The whole organic debate is polarised in silly ways – “organic good, non-organic bad”. Progressive farming needs to have a much wider discourse. For example, organic crops typically have lower yields, and so to produce similar quantity more land is required. Clearing farming land for organic crops may not be good for the overall environment. Organic crops will undoubtedly be more susceptible to occasional blight. In western nations, this need not matter. In developing nations, this would be disastrous. We need to step outside of the chains of organic thinking that we are being forced down by the propaganda given above and think how we produce adequate food crops that are reliably produced, resistant to catastrophic failure, low impact on natural resources and cheap enough to feed those with limited resources.

    Organic farming does not have all the answers to these difficult problems, if any answers at all.

  6. I can see the point of using more land for farming organic crops to gain the same yield. However, numerous studies have been performed on the mineral supply of the topsoil that our produce is grown in and through the years we are finding we need to eat more to get the same mineral/vitamin content.
    Also, pesticides in high levels can create neurological disease as well as hormone imbalances – Infertility, depression and difficult menopause, ring any bells? These problems are more rampant than ever.
    Also, many experts have testified that pesticides, although within the normal legal limits, are unsafe, especially in children. Blood test analyses have shown that fact. Do you think feeding your child household cleaner, in small amounts, is o.k? Why not? Often these chemicals are not that differently structured than the pesticides used on crops. Certain spinach crops have been tested to have 14 different pesticides. If that’s not dangerous I don’t know what is?

    Maybe we need to focus more on developing environmentally and biochemically friendly pesticides rather than debating the organic issue.

    I only hope that this is helpful in making more informed decisions.

  7. I just switched from a very healthy no-meat diet to an even-healthier no-meat diet without fish, eggs, dairy products, or processed foods. I’m trying to heal my gall bladder to avoid surgery and am avoiding all the things that were triggering attacks (including Chinese food.) After about 10 days I feel much less hungry. Food tastes better. I’m not sure if this will heal my gall bladder but it’s an interesting experiment. Also I have no cravings (so far) for anything except what I’m thinking of as whole foods. I heard that there are many things people ingest that “the body does not recognize as food.” That rang true. I’m determined to only put things in my mouth that my body will welcome. I’d be interested in others’ experiences or responses.

    Mariah Burton Nelson

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