The article the organic food freaks hate

While doing some other background research I actually found the fulltext of the study that organic supporters hate (because it disproves their claims). Here it is:

Nutritional quality of organic foods: a systematic review

from: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Notes: 1) I originally included this in today’s QuickReaction, but realized I was writing a post-length comment and so I made it a post, as per my new idea about my QuickReaction articles, and, 2) : I’ve drifted back from ragging on foodists to ranting about all the leftie denialism since I’m re-reading Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Harms the Planet and Threatens Our Lives by Michael Specter, who I was originally skeptical about (thinking he was a rightwingnut doing a false flag attack) but now I see he is just after leftie delusional thinking.

Here’s the famous study the foodists hate disproving any claims of nutritional superiority of organic foods. Now actually I like organics, when I can afford them, esp. my own organics (easy to afford but rarely available) but I can’t actually demonstrate any superiority of any property (safety, nutrition, taste). In fact any shopper who goes to many markets knows there is difference in quality in goods, esp. produce. So naturally the high-end expensive stuff at Whole Foods would be better even if it was conventionally grown (as actually much of it is) simply because Whole Foods buyers get the best produce knowing they can get premium prices for it. So any notion “organic” is better probably just means you’ve have the top-end produce and that has nothing to do with it being organic.

But facts won’t make any difference to the food bigots. So this meta-analysis discussed in this paper has an interesting bit: “we identified 162 studies (137 crops and 25 livestock products); 55 were of satisfactory quality”. Given there were 162 published studies they found how come only 55 were of satisfactory quality? A) the authors are cherry-picking studies to show what they want (the organic-lover skeptics POV), or, B) food studies are 2/3rds junks (the nutrition community skeptics POV, i.e. me). And here’s the answer the authors provide:

More than one-half of the studies identified (n = 87; 54%) failed to specify the organic certifying body [in 12 cases (7.5%) for which no certifying body was specified, we inferred a body from the Methods section of the report], 20% of the studies (n = 33) failed to state the plant cultivar or livestock breed, all studies stated the nutrients analyzed, 1% of studies (n = 2) failed to state laboratory methods, and 14% of studies (n = 22) failed to state statistical methods

Interesting failures of the excluded studies (so explanation A, cherry-picking seems to be untrue). These ‘fails’ are pretty significant and certainly seem to indicate the low quality of what it takes to get “published”. I would just get (but obviously don’t know) that many of those studies that were excluded are the ones that claim organics are superior. And amusingly here’s what the authors say about the studies:

Despite the relatively low threshold used in this review to define satisfactory-quality studies, a disappointingly low number of studies was graded as being of satisfactory quality. We urge researchers investigating nutritional characteristics of organic food to improve the scientific quality of their work …

It is also clear that research in this area would benefit considerably from greater scientific rigor and a better understanding of the various factors (apart from production regimen) that determine the nutrient content of foodstuffs.

And, of course, I should quote their conclusions here:

We extracted 1149 nutrient content comparisons from 46 satisfactory-quality crop studies, and data on 11 nutrient categories were reported in ≥10 studies. Analysis of satisfactory-quality crop studies found no evidence of a difference in 8 of the 11 nutrient categories (vitamin C, phenolic compounds, magnesium, potassium, calcium, zinc, copper, and total soluble solids)

So much for the magic of organic food.


About dmill96

old fat (but now getting trim and fit) guy, who used to create software in Silicon Valley (almost before it was called that), who used to go backpacking and bicycling and cross-country skiing and now geodashes, drives AWD in Wyoming, takes pictures, and writes long blog posts and does xizquvjyk.
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