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An international team of experts led by Newcastle University, UK,
has proved that organic crops and crop-based foods are up to 60% higher in a number of key antioxidants than conventionally-grown crops. Published in the British Journal of Nutrition, the largest study of its kind found that switching to eating organic fruit, vegetables and cereals would provide additional antioxidants equivalent to eating between one and two extra portions of fruit and vegetables. It also showed drastically lower levels of toxic heavy metals in organic crops.
(Picture: Organic vegetables and salad contain more antioxidants, among other benefits)
Newcastle University’s Professor Carlo Leifert, who led the study, explains: “This constitutes an
important addition to the information currently available to consumers which until now has been confusing and in many cases is conflicting.” The analysis indicates that the quality of food is
strongly influenced by the way it is produced. In particular, there is increasing evidence that higher levels of manufactured chemical fertilisers, most notably the nitrogen and phosphate-based fertilisers that are
prohibited or heavily restricted by organic farming standards, lead to the substantially lower concentrations of antioxidants in conventional crops.
Organic crops and crop-based food products were found to have
higher concentrations of antioxidants (including phenolic acids, flavanones, stilbenes, flavones, flavonols and anthocyanines) compared with their conventionally produced counterparts. The mean percentage difference for most antioxidant compounds was between plus
18% and 69%. Smaller, but still statistically significant, composition differences were also detected for a number of carotenoids and vitamins. A switch to eating organic fruit, vegetables and cereals (and food made from them) would lead to a 20-40% (and for some compounds up to a 60%) increase in crop-based antioxidant (poly)phenolic consumption without any increase in calories. The increased consumption of (poly)phenolics and other plant secondary metabolites with antioxidant activity protects against chronic diseases, including cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases and some cancers.