In a guidance document for medical professionals and parents, the American Academy of Pediatrics said that while organic products lower the risk of exposure to pesticides and drug-resistant bacteria, it is most important for children to eat a healthy diet, whether it features conventional or organic foods.
“What’s most important is that children eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products, whether those are conventional or organic foods,” says Janet Silverstein, M.D., a member of the AAP committee on nutrition and one of the lead authors of the report. “This type of diet has proven health benefits. Many families have a limited food budget, and we do not want families to choose to consume smaller amounts of more expensive organic foods and thus reduce their overall intake of healthy foods like produce.”
The AAP conducted an analysis of the scientific evidence surrounding organic produce, dairy products and meat, and the conclusion it reached is mixed. While organic foods have the same vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, proteins, lipids and other nutrients as conventional foods, they also have lower pesticide levels, which may be significant for children. Organically raised animals also are less likely to be contaminated with drug-resistant bacteria because organic farming rules prohibit the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics.
In the long term, the group said, there is currently no direct evidence that consuming an organic diet leads to improved health or lower risk of disease. One reason the AAP reached its conclusion is because no large studies in humans have been performed that specifically address the issue.
“At this point, we simply do not have the scientific evidence to know whether the difference in pesticide levels will impact a person’s health over a lifetime, though we do know that children — especially young children whose brains are developing — are uniquely vulnerable to chemical exposures,” says Joel Forman, M.D., a member of the AAP council on environmental health and one of the lead authors of the AAP clinical report.
The report, titled “Organic food health and environmental advantages and disadvantages” was released Oct. 22 at the AAP National Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans. The full report may be viewed by visiting www.aap.org.