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Nutrition is one of the subjects I find important when speaking with my patients parents. Recently I have found myself having discussions about organic foods and whether there are more health benefits from them.
The American Academy of Pediatrics in 2012 published a statement about organic foods. This statement was the result of studies of multiple research that assessed the pros and cons of organic farming vs conventional farming. The main points were on pesticides, hormones in meat, milk, antibiotics and cost.
On the subject of pesticides, although pesticide levels did cause harm in terms on mental development of children of farm workers with daily exposure to pesticides, this harm did not translate to studies on the general population of non-farming communities. Although, another small study did show that pesticide levels reduced in urine of children who were on only organic food for 5 days, it was not able to assess if these concentrations of very minimal pesticides were of any consequence health-wise.
Milk production and meat production were examined. Bovine growth hormone (GH) is used in milk production in conventional farming, as GH is species-specific it is not active in humans and degrades 90% in the pasteurization process, thus making is statistically insignificant. Meat production in conventional farming uses estrogens to increase lean meat mass in the animals. These synthetic hormones used in farming do not bind well in humans making their effects unclear.
Antibiotics, which are on the forefront of the examination of organic vs conventional farming, are regularly used in conventional farming. Studies did show a decrease in nontherapeutic use of antibiotics could curb the colonization of drug resistant bacteria in the human gut possibly decreasing the drug resistant diseases that are emerging.
Organic food is still costlier than conventional farming thus causing an increase of food cost 40%. However if organic farming technology increased and costs were controlled this difference could be mitigated.
Overall, the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics could decrease the emergence of drug resistant human disease and pesticides in the body can be reduced although health benefits are unclear. All of the other aspects of conventional farming need more examination and effects on health remain uncertain. Whether a family chooses organic vs conventional farmed foods is their essential choice as long as they continue to provide their children with a well-balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, lean meats and low-fat dairy.