The American diet is a perplexing paradox—we are an overfed, yet undernourished nation. Daily deficiencies exist despite the abundance of nutrient-dense foods available to all Americans and our ample, often excessive, caloric
intake. This is why scientists have begun work in earnest on reversing the
decades-long decline in the nutrient density of high-yield conventional crops and
why organic farming’s potential to
increase the nutrient density of food is
emerging as such an important consumer
health benefit. Surely food safety, quality
(taste and nutrient density), and where and how the raw ingredients were grown,
and then processed and manufactured into a final product, will be part of defining this new value proposition.
This is why the Center turned its
attention in 2007 to two key questions:
Why and how does organic farming
increase the density of nutrients,
including antioxidants, in food? And,
“The linkage between improved soil quality and more nutrient
dense food stands as powerful evidence…feed the soil to
better feed the plant.”
Specific Health Benefits of an Organic Diet
From heart-healthy fats in milk to cancer-fighting flavonoids in tomatoes—
more and more studies are linking specific organic products to significant health
Studies have shown that organic dairy and meat have higher levels of conju-
gated linoleic acids (CLAs), a good fat that has been shown to have a long list of
health benefits from helping fight cancer and enhancing immunity, to ridding
the bod y of fatty, artery-clogging plaque. This higher number of fatty
a cids is due to the difference in the animals’ diets—the greater
t he reliance on pasture in organic dairy farming, the bigger
t he boost expected in CLA levels.
Now these increased levels of CLAs in organic are being
l inked with other benefits. In the August 2007 British
Journal of Nutrition, European scientists reported that child ren consuming a predominantly organic diet (greater than
90 percent organic) had over a 30 percent lower risk of
Organic milk has up to e czema, compared to children eating 50 percent or less
40 percent more o rganic food. Higher levels of CLAs (conjugated linoleic
healthy fats. acids) were identified as the most likely reason.
Earlier, in June, the same team reported another significant finding— lactating women consuming the most organic milk and meat had almost 40 percent
higher levels of CLAs, specifically rumenic acid, in their breastmilk. This conclusion was based on a study of 312 breastfeeding women, who were divided into
groups on the basis of how much organic milk and meat they consumed.
New science is highlighting the critical role of dietary antioxidants in preventing or slowing the neurological diseases of aging, combating diseases rooted in
inflammation and reducing the risk of cancer.
The Organic Center’s 2005 “State of Science Review” on antioxidants concluded that organic farming and food processing increased average antioxidant content by about 30 percent, a finding reinforced by several recent studies and
reports. Indeed, we think the debate over whether organic farming increases the
total antioxidant content of foods under most circumstances will be largely settled by the end of 2008.
does organic farming and food processing change the form of nutrients
in ways that result in higher food
Researchers at Washington State
University, with support from The
Organic Center, carried out the first-ever assessment of the bioavailability
of the three major antioxidants in citrus fruits and juices: hesperetin, narin-genin and eriodictyol. These key
flavonoids are present in foods in two
forms which have been shown to have
major differences in biological activity.
Lead scientist Dr. Neal Davies and his
team at WSU were the first team to
ever quantify both the glycoside (
molecule with attached sugars) and aglycone (a more bioavailable molecule
without sugars) forms of these three
beneficial flavonoids. They found that:
• Organic lemon juice had ten-times
the total eriocitrin (glycoside form
of eriodictyol) compared to conventional lemon juice and the aglycone form had over three-times the
level in conventional juice.
• Organic lime juice also had three-times the level of eriocitrin, compared to conventional lime juice.
• Organic apple juice had over three
times the total hesperidin (
glycoside), and almost twice the hesperetin (aglycone form).
• Organic grapefruit juice had about
20 percent less total hesperidin
(glycoside), but 77 percent more
The importance of measuring both
the glycoside and aglycone form of
flavonoids (and other nutrients) is