Over the years I have read no end of articles which tell me that, as a runner, I should ensure that I am eating organic food to get the full benefit from my diet. For example, popular running website “will run for food”, a site giving supposedly sound advice on food for runners, makes some pretty far reaching claims in their article “5 ways to get more Organic food into your diet”, including:
So why eat organic? Well, there are a multitude of reasons, but the principle one is that you deserve to have the highest quality food possible. Traditionally grown food has toxins, pesticides, and genetically modified ingredients, all of which have been increasingly shown to be not only awful for your health in a variety of ways, but even carcinogenic.
They go on to say that “Organic food is more nutritionally dense” quite a claim. Sounds like I’d be mad not to buy it – much better than poisoning myself with toxins and getting cancer.
Whenever people make claims like this with no research or footnotes in their article, I get a bit suspicious, it stinks of lazy journalism. Doing a little research myself, I want to point out why what they say is probably a bit far-fetched.
Let’s actually do some research
Crystal Smith-Spangler and her team at Stanford University ran studies on organic food and the results were made available yesterday here. They pulled together 237 studies which compared organic and non-organic foods and found very little evidence that organic food gives any health benefits above non-organic food. Where they found additional toxins in non-organic foods, a normal diet would put you well within safe levels which the UK government advises cause no negative effects at all. They also conclude that eating organic food is no better for your allergies – which is sometimes offered as a benefit of organic food. The only real issue that they found was that there was a slight increase in anti-biotic resistant bacteria in the non-organic food. This is the only real plus point for eating organic food that I can see currently.
But it’s better for the environment…isn’t it?
Organic farms are less polluting…aren’t they? Well, it depends how you measure it, per unit of land they are less polluting, but organic farm land produces less crops, so per unit of food produced organic farms are actually more polluting than non-organic farms, this might sound surprising, but it’s clearly stated in this study from Oxford University which was released at the end of last year.
Obviously it’s up to you what you eat and how you feel about it, but personally I am not going to try to add more organic food to my meals in the hope it’ll magically help my running or increase my nutritionally density.