Tag Archives: Nutrition

Nutrition Myth Buster Number 1 – Organic vs Conventional

Debunking fitness misconceptions:

Misconceptions in the field of health and fitness are more common then virgins at a Star Trek convention. The industry is saturated with misinformation. Tips and ‘well informed’ rhetoric can hit from all sides, often making your head feel like it’s taken a spin class all on its own.

It is all too easy to fall in to what today is termed as ‘broscience’, just as I did when I first started my career.

‘Broscience’ for the uninitiated is defined in the Urban Dictionary as “the predominant brand of reasoning in bodybuilding circles where the anecdotal reports of jacked dudes are considered more credible than scientific research.”

My aim here isn’t to cast the subject of broscience into the depths of Hades. To my mind broscience has a value. Sharing ideas and making provisional claims on aspects of health and fitness can help promote thoughts that can be further researched in the field of science- ultimately deciphering techniques and making things more efficient.

My objective is to demystify just some of the misinformation that currently exists.

My first piece of advice, would be to make sure that researched scientific evidence always stands in front of ’helpful anecdotes, ‘sure fire tips’ and ‘mates advice’.  Lets look at an example:

Nutrition myth #1: Organic foods are superior in terms of nutrient quality compared to conventional foods.

Although I wouldn’t put this myth into the premier league of broscience dogma, this is certainly one that needs to be analysed, if for no other reason, than that organic food can cost a shed-load of money. So, is it worth the extra outlay?

This current systematic review, made an important corollary, in that organically produced foods are not superior to conventional foods with respect to nutrient content.

TABLE 1

Comparison of content of nutrients and other nutritionally relevant substances in organically and conventionally produced crops as reported in satisfactory-quality studies

Results of analysis

Higher concentrations in organic or conventional crops?

Nutrient category1

No. of studies

No. of comparisons

Standardized difference2

P

%

Nitrogen 17 64 6.7 ± 1.9 0.003 Conventional
Vitamin C 14 65 2.7 ± 5.9 0.84 No difference
Phenolic compounds 13 80 3.4 ± 6.1 0.60 No difference
Magnesium 13 35 4.2 ± 2.3 0.10 No difference
Calcium 13 37 3.7 ± 4.8 0.45 No difference
Phosphorus 12 35 8.1 ± 2.6 0.009 Organic
Potassium 12 34 2.7 ± 2.4 0.28 No difference
Zinc 11 30 10.1 ± 5.6 0.11 No difference
Total soluble solids 11 29 0.4 ± 4.0 0.92 No difference
Copper 11 30 8.6 ± 11.5 0.47 No difference
Titratable acidity 10 29 6.8 ± 2.1 0.01 Organic

 

An excerpt from the study: ‘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 solid). Nitrogen contents were significantly higher in conventionally produced crops, and contents of phosphorus and titratable acidity were significantly higher in organically produced crops.’

It was concluded from this systematic review that 10 out of 13 nutrient categories had no significant difference. However the differences that were detected biologically plausible were most likely due to differences in fertiliser use (nitrogen and phosphorus) and ripeness at harvest (titratable acidity).

It is important to note, that although no difference in nutrient content was distinguished between the two. Research in this area is still ongoing.

Alex Ritson – Feb 2014

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1. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/90/3/680.long