Is organic healthier?

By Judy Buttriss

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

Judy Buttriss, director general, British Nutrition Foundation
Judy Buttriss, director general, British Nutrition Foundation
Recent popular press headlines announced that organic fruits and vegetables are healthier as they contain more antioxidants.

Though more detailed, the analysis considered much of the same material that has failed to reveal a difference previously.

The ‘antioxidants’ referred to are not established nutrients but phenolic/polyphenolic substances with diverse structures that are produced by plants for lots of reasons, including in response to attack by pests and disease.

The differences were relatively modest and individual studies were diverse and from around the globe.


Identification of the biological effects of phenolics on humans – good or bad – is in its infancy. It’s hampered by the fact that few are absorbed intact into the bloodstream, so are hard to trace.

Where research is emerging, the effects are typically structure-specific, so adding together the ‘antioxidant potential’ of phenolics is probably meaningless.

Also, not mentioned in the headlines, protein levels were lower in the organic crops. There is natural variability in composition, influenced by climate, season and growing conditions – so, focus on achieving at least five-a-day whether organic or not.

Related topics: Food Ingredients, Health & Nutrition

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