Organic Food in the Diet: Exposure and Health Implications

Annu Rev Public Health. 2017 Mar 20:38:295-313. doi: 10.1146/annurev-publhealth-031816-044437. Epub 2016 Dec 15.


The market for organic food products is growing rapidly worldwide. Such foods meet certified organic standards for production, handling, processing, and marketing. Most notably, the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and genetic modification is not allowed. One major reason for the increased demand is the perception that organic food is more environmentally friendly and healthier than conventionally produced food. This review provides an update on market data and consumer preferences for organic food and summarizes the scientific evidence for compositional differences and health benefits of organic compared with conventionally produced food. Studies indicate some differences in favor of organic food, including indications of beneficial health effects. Organic foods convey lower pesticide residue exposure than do conventionally produced foods, but the impact of this on human health is not clear. Comparisons are complicated by organic food consumption being strongly correlated with several indicators of a healthy lifestyle and by conventional agriculture "best practices" often being quite close to those of organic.

Keywords: compositional differences; health effects; naturalness; organic food; organic vegetables.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture / methods*
  • Diet*
  • Food
  • Food Contamination / prevention & control*
  • Food, Organic*
  • Humans
  • Nutritive Value