Organic food 'can help you lose weight and live longer': How natural fruit and vegetables are packed with more nutrientsBy Sean Poulter
Switching to organic produce could help you live longer as well as keeping you healthier and slimmer, say academics.
Fruit and vegetables grown without artificial fertilisers have significantly more key nutrients, including vitamin C.
As a result, going organic can extend average lifespans, typically by 25 days for men and 17 days for women.
Healthier: Fruit and vegetables grown without artificial fertilisers have significantly more key nutrients, including vitamin C
The University of Newcastle study argues it is on a par with the benefit for the country from the national breast cancer screening programme.
It also suggests eating organic is likely to improve general health, highlighting the higher levels of compounds which encourage the body to burn fat. This can help devotees shed the pounds.
The conclusion challenges the Food Standards Agency, which has long dismissed the health gains of organic food.
The results were welcomed by organic advocates who say better health is just one reason shoppers buy the produce.
A reduced use of chemicals, better animal welfare and improved husbandry of the countryside are also cited. The researchers, based at Newcastle’s highly respected School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, reviewed all the most up-to-date research on nutrients found in organic food.
They found that fruit and vegetables grown this way are richer in most of the beneficial substances called secondary metabolites and vitamin C.
Secondary metabolites are said to boost the immune system and protect the body from cell-damaging free radicals.
They include phenolics, tannins, flavanones, carotenoids and fat-burning resveratrol, which are said to help guard against cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
The team took these findings to estimate the life-enhancing effect of switching from eating only conventional fruits and vegetables to the organic versions in the same amounts.
Lead researcher Dr Kirsten Brandt, a senior lecturer in food quality and health, said the figures represent a ‘best guess’ based on all available information. She suggested most people probably would not live any longer but a lucky few could add many months, and even up to five years, to their lives.
Resveratrol is associated with fooling the body into burning fat. As a result, the study said, devotees could live longer because of ‘a corresponding weight loss, or lack of weight gain’.
Peter Melchett, policy director at the organic farming body, the Soil Association, said: ‘There are lots of reasons people choose organic, not least because it is better for the environment, animal welfare and wildlife.
‘Here we have research which demonstrates a significant health benefit.
‘As more science is conducted, we see evidence showing beneficial nutritional differences associated with organic food.’
The FSA caused an outcry in 2009 when it published research stating there was no significant increase in nutrients in organic produce.
The Newcastle study will be published in the next issue of the journal Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences.