Feb 23, 2013 | Mother Jones | Tom Philpott
Remember that Stanford research meta-analysis purporting to show that organic food offers no real health advantages? (I poked some holes in it here). Buried in the study (I have a full copy but can't post it for copyright reasons) is the finding that organic foods tend to have higher levels of phenols—compounds, naturally occurring in plants, widely believed to fight cancer and other degenerative diseases.
After the study's release, one of the study's authors, Dena Bravata, downplayed that result in a New York Times report :
While the difference [in total phenol levels between organic and conventional produce] was statistically significant, the size of the difference varied widely from study to study, and the data was based on the testing of small numbers of samples. "I interpret that result with caution," Dr. Bravata said.A paper published Feb. 20 in PLOS One highlighted the link between organic agriculture and phenols. A team of researchers compared total phenol content in organic and conventional tomatoes grown in nearby plots in Brazil. By cultivating the tomatoes in the same microclimate and in similar soil, the researchers were able to control for environmental factors that might otherwise affect nutrient content.
The result: Total phenolic content was 139 percent higher in the organic tomatoes than in the conventional at the time of harvest; and vitamin C content clocked in at 55 percent higher.