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[SANET-MG] organic foods more healthy
http://www.i-sis.org.uk/AOFMH.phpISIS Press Release 08/12/04
Are Organic Foods More Healthy?
Rhea Gala and Sam Burcher report on new research showing that organic
feed gives protection against toxins under vulnerable conditions where
conventional feed fails
Sources for this article are posted on ISIS members’ website. Details here
It has been suggested that organic food contains higher amounts of
natural toxic compounds produced by fungi or plants (but see "Increased
mycotoxins in organic produce?" this series), whereas conventional food
may contain more synthetic toxins from pesticide residues which can also
seriously damage human health and the environment. So are there any real
health benefits from organic food?
Research reviewed in the Independent Science Panel Report, The Case for
a GM-Free Sustainable World (www.indsp.org) has shown that organic crops
tend to have a higher nutrient content, and organic feed improves the
general health and disease resistance of farm animals. Organic farming
practices including the use of animal or green manure and long crop
rotation are also thought to reduce plant infection by pathogens.
However, mycotoxins (fungus derived toxins) called DON (deoxynivalenol)
and OTA (ochratoxin A), often contaminate wheat, whether grown
organically or conventionally; they cause cancer, damage genes, and are
harmful to the kidneys and the immune system. The levels of these toxins
may be reduced by fungicides, or increased by nitrogen fertilisers, and
are also influenced by climate and improper storage; for example being
kept too hot or wet, a condition that may be associated with organic
There have been a few studies showing that animals fed organically have
slight improvements over those fed conventionally in mortality rate,
body and organ weight, reproductive performance and fertility.
Scientists at the National Institute for Research into Food and
Nutrition in Rome have taken a new approach in comparing organic and
conventional food consumption, by looking at sensitive markers of cell
function in response to the toxins in animals under vulnerable
conditions . The markers were the proliferative capacities of
lymphocytes found in the intestine and in the spleen, and the
acute-phase reaction of the liver, both responding to the presence of
The intestinal mucosa (lining) is continuously exposed to millions of
food antigens and ingested toxic substances, so the intestinal immune
system and the spleen lymphocytes should mount a prompt defence against
the insults. The liver acute-phase reaction, responding to disturbances
of cell homeostasis (state of balance), will increase the synthesis of
some blood plasma proteins and decrease the synthesis of others.
The vulnerable conditions in which body defences can be less efficient
are during weaning, and under protein energy malnutrition (PEM). Several
studies have shown that PEM induces severe alterations in different
organs and tissues including the liver and the immune system, especially
during development, causing a predisposition to damage by food
contaminants such as DON and OTA.
Weaned rats were assigned to two groups and fed for 30 days on
conventional or organic wheat, both of which had been grown under
carefully controlled conditions. Both groups were then divided into two
subgroups of well-nourished or protein energy malnourished (PEM) rats.
For each rat, lymphocyte proliferation was assayed after stimulating the
cells with a mitogen (substance that causes cells to divide) in a
culture medium containing either fetal calf serum (FCS) or the rat’s own
serum (RS) to mimic the in vivo proliferative response. The acute phase
proteins - albumin, transthyretin, transferring, ceruloplasmin,
retinal-binding protein – were measured in the rat’s plasma.
The proliferative response of lymphocytes cultured with FCS, and acute
phase proteins showed no difference in organically and conventionally
fed rats, under either well-fed or PEM condition; despite the fact that
the organic wheat contained higher amounts of mycotoxins, though still
lower than that reported to affect immune response.
The proliferative capacity of lymphocytes cultured with the rat’s own
serum, however, was inhibited in PEM rats on conventional feed compared
with those fed organically. This effect was thought to be due to
contaminants other than mycotoxins in the conventionally grown wheat.
Thus, conventionally grown wheat represented a higher risk for
lymphocyte function than the organically grown wheat, at least, in
animals under vulnerable conditions.
In other words, the conventional wheat appeared to compromise the
ability of the vulnerable animals to mount an immune response.
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