13 March 2002
ORGANIC FOOD MIGHT REDUCE HEART ATTACKS
Articles like this might increase heart attacks in some quarters:
'John Paterson, a biochemist at Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary,
criticises Krebs... ' For more on the Krebs agenda:
Organic food might reduce heart attacks
Eating organic food may help reduce your risk of heart attacks, strokes and cancer. The finding will reignite the debate over its health benefits and may force regulatory agencies to reconsider their position.
Until now there has been little scientific evidence to suggest that organic food is any healthier than conventional produce. The head of the British Food Standards Agency, John Krebs, has gone so far as to say it is no better. But John Paterson, a biochemist at Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary, criticises Krebs for making such statements "on the basis of very little information".
Now Paterson and a team from the infirmary and the University of Strathclyde have found that organic vegetable soups contain almost six times as much salicylic acid as non-organic vegetable soups. The acid is responsible for the anti-inflammatory action of aspirin, and helps combat hardening of the arteries and bowel cancer.
"Eating organic may be good for you," says Paterson. "I'm not an evangelist for the organic food movement, but there was a fairly substantial difference."
The average level of salicylic acid in 11 brands of organic vegetable soup on sale in Britain was 117 nanograms per gram, compared with 20 ng/g in 24 types of non-organic soup. The highest concentration of the acid, 1040 ng/g, was found in carrot and coriander soup made by Simply Organic based in Bilston Glen, Scotland, while it was not detectable in four traditional soups made by Scottish company Baxters.
Salicylic acid is produced naturally in plants as a defence against stress and disease. This could explain why levels are higher in organic vegetables, which are generally grown without protection from pesticides.
Earlier research by Paterson's team discovered significantly higher concentrations of the acid in the blood of vegetarian Buddhist monks compared with that of meat-eaters.
The Food Standards Agency now promises to study the new evidence. "We are aware of the suggested benefits of high levels of salicylic acid and will look at what the report has to say," says a spokeswoman.
Journal reference: European Journal of Nutrition (vol 40, p 289)
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