Can a different food process actually create food that is nutritionally different? Scientists are skeptical but a group of nutritionists claim they have done so - by reviewing a bunch of papers which claim to have done so.

Can it even be possible? Certainly, different strawberries may have different levels of some compounds, but that is also true if both are grown organically.  So recent findings will be treated with skepticism because they fly in the face of the science consensus and what they don't do is create identical food under different processes, they instead look at studies of different foods grown under different conditions and measured for various compounds.

For example, the reviews of other studies leads the nutritionists to claim:

  • both organic milk and meat contain around 50% more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids than conventionally produced products

  • organic meat had slightly lower concentrations of two saturated fats (myristic and palmitic acid) that are linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease
  • organic milk contains 40% more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
  • organic milk contains slightly higher concentrations of iron, Vitamin E and some carotenoids
  • conventional milk contained 74% more of the essential mineral iodine and slightly more selenium

They hand-picked and then reviewed 196 papers on milk and 67 papers on meat and found clear differences between organic and conventional milk and meat, especially in terms of fatty acid composition, and the concentrations of certain essential minerals and antioxidants.

Chris Seal, Professor of Food and Human Nutrition at Newcastle University says, "Omega-3s are linked to reductions in cardiovascular disease, improved neurological development and function, and better immune function. Western European diets are recognized as being too low in these fatty acids and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommends we should double our intake. But getting enough in our diet is difficult. Our study suggests that switching to organic would go some way towards improving intakes of these important nutrients."  

They conclude that a switch from conventional to organic would raise omega-3 fat intake without increasing calories and undesirable saturated fat. For example, half a litre of organic full fat milk (or equivalent fat intakes from other dairy products like butter and cheese) provides an estimated 16% (39 mg) of the recommended, daily intake of very long-chain omega-3, while conventional milk provides 11% (25 mg). Other positive changes in fat profiles would include lower levels of myristic and palmitic acid in organic meat and a lower omega-3/omega-6 ratio in organic milk. Higher levels of fat soluble vitamins such as vitamin E and carotenoids and 40% more CLA in organic milk were also observed. 

They believe that the more desirable fat profiles in organic milk were closely linked to outdoor grazing and low concentrate feeding in dairy diets, as prescribed by organic farming standards.

The two new systematic literature reviews also describe recently published results from several mother and child cohort studies linking organic milk and dairy product consumption to a reduced risk of certain diseases. This included reduced risks of eczema in babies.

 Published in the British Journal of Nutrition.