Background: There is uncertainty over the nutrition-related benefits to health of consuming organic foods.
Objective: We sought to assess the strength of evidence that nutrition-related health benefits could be attributed to the consumption of foods produced under organic farming methods.
Design: We systematically searched PubMed, ISI Web of Science, CAB Abstracts, and Embase between 1 January 1958 and 15 September 2008 (and updated until 10 March 2010); contacted subject experts; and hand-searched bibliographies. We included peer-reviewed articles with English abstracts if they reported a comparison of health outcomes that resulted from consumption of or exposure to organic compared with conventionally produced foodstuffs.
Results: From a total of 98,727 articles, we identified 12 relevant studies. A variety of different study designs were used; there were 8 reports (67%) of human studies, including 6 clinical trials, 1 cohort study, and 1 cross-sectional study, and 4 reports (33%) of studies in animals or human cell lines or serum. The results of the largest study suggested an association of reported consumption of strictly organic dairy products with a reduced risk of eczema in infants, but the majority of the remaining studies showed no evidence of differences in nutrition-related health outcomes that result from exposure to organic or conventionally produced foodstuffs. Given the paucity of available data, the heterogeneity of study designs used, exposures tested, and health outcomes investigated, no quantitative meta-analysis was justified.
Conclusion: From a systematic review of the currently available published literature, evidence is lacking for nutrition-related health effects that result from the consumption of organically produced foodstuffs.