Are Organic Foods Healthier?

Written by Dr. Steve Chaney on . Posted in Food and Health, Healthy Living, Nutritiion, Supplements and Health

Organic Fruits & Vegetables

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

 fruits-vegetables

Are organic foods healthier for us than conventionally grown foods, specifically fruits and vegetables? The controversy about the benefits of organically raised produce continues. In fact, about the only thing that all sides agree on is that:

  • Organic foods have lower pesticide and herbicide residues and cause less environmental pollution.
  • Organic foods generally cost more.

But that is where all agreement ends.

  • Some experts argue that the pesticide levels on conventionally grown fruits and vegetables are within safe levels and that any risk from the pesticides is outweighed by the health benefits of the fruits and vegetables themselves.
  • Some studies have suggested that organic foods, fruits and vegetables, are healthier because they have higher antioxidant levels, while other studies have reported no nutritional differences between organic and conventionally grown fruits and vegetables.

Benefits of Organic Food?

The present study (Baranski et al, British Journal of Nutrition, doi: 10.1017/S0007114514001366) tried to overcome the shortcomings of many of the previously published reports.

To begin with this study was a meta-analysis that combined the results from 343 of the best designed previous studies to increase the statistical power of the analysis. In addition, the investigators utilized a type of statistical analysis that was superior to previously published studies. In short, it was a very good study. It does show some benefits of organic food.

organic-farms

The results were fairly clear cut:

  • Pesticide residues were four-fold lower in the organically raised produce than the conventionally raised produce. This result has been consistently seen in all of the previously published studies, and is probably the #1 reason that people choose organic produce. It is also one of the most agreed upon benefits of organic food.
  • Polyphenol antioxidant levels were significantly higher in the organically raised produce. The percent increase ranged from 19% to 69% depending on the polyphenolic compound tested. This increase has not been seen in all previously published studies, but would represent a side benefit if true.
  • Levels of the toxic metal cadmium were significantly less in the organically grown fruits and vegetables. The authors speculated that the cadmium found in conventionally grown produce came from the inorganic fertilizers that were used.

Should You Choose Organic Supplements?

natural-medicine

If organic foods are better for you than conventionally grown foods, does that mean that you should also choose organic supplements? While that idea sounds logical, the reality is actually more complex.

While organic foods clearly have less pesticides and toxic metals than conventionally grown foods, the level of those contaminants is not zero – even in foods with organic certification. The problem is that our environment is so polluted that no farm is contaminant free. A farmer can use the best organic practices, but if their groundwater is contaminated or pesticides from neighboring farms blow on to their farm, some of those toxic residues will end up in their “organic” crops.

 

So with supplements, “Organic” certification is not an absolute guarantee of purity. Instead you should insist on getting your supplements from a company with a very rigorous quality control program and a policy of rejecting any raw materials that contain contaminants of any kind.

The Bottom Line

1)     The latest study shows that pesticide residues are four-fold lower in the organically raised produce than the conventionally raised produce. This result has been consistently seen in all of the previously published studies, and is probably the #1 reason that people choose organic fruits and vegetables.

2)    Polyphenol antioxidant levels were significantly higher in the organically raised produce. The percent increase ranged from 19% to 69% depending on the polyphenolic compound tested. This increase has not been seen in all previously published studies, but would represent a side benefit if true.

3)    While one of the benefits of organic foods is they are less likely to be contaminated than conventionally grown foods, an organic certification is not a sufficient proof of purity when you are choosing supplements.You should insist on getting your supplements from a company with a very rigorous quality control program and a policy of rejecting any raw materials that contain contaminants of any kind.

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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Comments (4)

  • Mike Lucas

    |

    Great info to share with all! We only purchase organic fruits and veggies! 🙂

    Reply

  • Judy LaBrune

    |

    I’ve really enjoyed all of your articles I’ve read, but this does confirm with me that buying organic is worth it. Thank you so much!

    Reply

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Latest Article

Does Protein Supplement Timing Matter?

Posted May 15, 2018 by Dr. Steve Chaney

How Do You Gain Muscle Mass & Lose Fat Mass?

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

 

protein supplement timingMost of what you read about protein supplements on the internet is wrong. That is because most published studies on protein supplements:

  • Are very small
  • Are not double blinded.
    • Both the subjects and the investigators knew who got the protein supplement.
  • Are done by individual companies with their product.
    • You have no idea which ingredients are in their product are responsible for the effects they report.
    • You have no idea how their product compares with other protein products.
    • There is no standardization with respect to the amount or type of protein or the addition of non-protein ingredients.

Because of these limitations there is a lot of misleading information on the benefits of protein supplements timing and maximal benefit. Let’s start by looking at why people use protein supplements. Let’s also look at what is generally accepted as true with respect to the best supplement timing.

There are 4 major reasons people consume protein supplements:

  • Enhance the muscle gain associated with resistance training: In this case, protein supplements are customarily consumed concurrently with the workout.
  • Preserve muscle and accelerate fat loss while on a weight loss diet: In this case, protein supplements are customarily consumed with meals or as meal replacements.
  • Provide a healthier protein source. In this case, protein supplements are customarily consumed with meals in place of meat protein.
  • Prevent muscle loss associated with aging or illness. There is no customary pattern associated with this use of protein supplements.

How good are the data supporting the customary timing of protein supplementation? The answer is: Not very good. The timing is based on a collection of weak studies which do not always agree with each other.

The current study  (J.L. Hudson et al, Nutrition Reviews, 76: 461-468, 2018 ) was designed to fill this void in our knowledge. It is a meta-analysis that compares all reasonably good studies that have looked at the effect of protein supplement timing on weight gain or loss, lean muscle mass gain, fat loss, and the ratio of lean muscle mass to fat mass.

How Was The Study Done?

The authors started by doing a literature search of all studies that met the following criteria:

  • The study was a randomized control trial with parallel design. This means that study contained a control group. It does not mean that the investigators or subjects were blinded with respect to which subjects used a protein supplement and which did not.
  • The subjects were engaged in resistance training.
  • The study lasted 6 weeks or longer.
  • Reliable methods were used to measure body composition (lean muscle mass and fat mass).
  • The subjects were healthy and at least 19 years old.
  • There was no restriction on the food the subjects consumed.

The authors started with 2074 published studies and ended up with 34 that met all their criteria. They then separated the studies into two groups – those in which the protein supplements were used with meals and those in which the protein supplements were used between meals.

Both groups were diverse.

  • Group 1 included subjects who consumed their protein supplement with their meal and those who consumed their protein supplement as a meal replacement.
  • Group 2 included subjects who consumed their protein supplement concurrent with exercise (usually immediately after exercise) and those who consumed their protein supplement at a fixed time of day not associated with exercise.

Does Protein Supplement Timing Matter?

 

protein supplement timing workoutsBecause the individual studies were very diverse in the way they were designed, the authors could not calculate a reliable estimate of how much lean muscle mass was increased or fat mass was decreased. Instead, they calculated the percentage of studies showing an increase in lean muscle mass or a decrease in fat mass.

When the authors compared protein supplements consumed with meals versus protein supplements consumed between meals:

  • Weight gain was observed in 56% of the studies of protein supplementation with meals compared to 72% of the studies of protein supplementation between meals. In other words, protein supplements consumed with meals were less likely to lead to weight gain than protein supplements consumed between meals.
  • An increase in lean muscle mass was observed in 94% of the studies of protein supplementation with meals compared to 90% of the studies of protein supplementation between meals. In other words, timing of protein supplementation did not matter with respect to increase in muscle mass.
  • A loss of fat mass was observed in 87% of the studies of protein supplementation with meals compared to 59% of the studies of protein supplementation between meals. In other words, protein supplements consumed with meals were more likely to lead to loss of fat mass.
  • An increase in the ratio of lean muscle mass to fat mass was observed in 100% of the studies of protein supplementation with meals compared to 87% of the studies of protein supplementation between meals. In short, protein supplements consumed with meals were slightly more likely to lead to an increase in the ratio of lean muscle mass to fat mass.

The following seem to suggest protein supplement timing matters:

The authors pointed out that their findings were consistent with previous studies showing that when protein supplements are consumed with a meal they displace some of the calories that otherwise would have been consumed. Simply put, people naturally compensate by eating less of other foods.

In contrast, the authors stated that previous studies have shown that when foods, especially liquid foods, are consumed as snacks (between meals), people are less likely to compensate by reducing the calories consumed in the next meal.

The others concluded: “Concurrently with resistance training, consuming protein supplements with meals, rather than between meals, may more effectively promote weight control and reduce fat mass without influencing improvements in lean [muscle] mass.”

What Are The Limitations Of The Study?

Meta-analyses such as this one, are only as good as the studies included in the meta-analysis. Unfortunately, most sports nutrition studies are very weak studies. Thus, this meta-analysis is a perfect example of the “Garbage In: Garbage Out (GI:GO)” phenomenon.

For example, let’s start by looking at what the term “protein supplement” meant.

  • Because the studies were done by individual companies with their product, the protein supplements in this meta-analysis:
    • Included whey, casein, soy, bovine colostrum, rice or combinations of protein sources.
    • Were isolates, concentrates, or hydrolysates.
    • Contained various additions like creatine, amino acids, and carbohydrate.
  • As I discuss in my book, Slaying the Food Myths, previous studies have shown that optimal protein and leucine levels are needed to maximize the increase in muscle mass and decrease in fat mass associated with resistance exercise. However, neither protein nor leucine levels were standardized in the protein supplements included in this meta-analysis.
  • Previous studies have shown that protein supplements that have little effect on blood sugar levels (have a low glycemic index) are more likely to curb appetite. However, glycemic index was not standardized for the protein supplements included in this meta-analysis.

protein supplement timing workout peopleIn short, the conclusions of this study might be true for some protein supplements, but not for others. We have no way of knowing.

We also need to consider the composition of the two groups.

  • Protein supplements used as meal replacements are more likely to decrease weight and fat mass than protein supplements consumed with meals. Yet, both were included in group 1.
  • Some studies suggest that protein supplements consumed concurrent with resistance exercise are more likely to increase muscle mass than protein supplements consumed another time of day. Yet, both are included in group 2. We also have no idea whether the meals with protein supplements in group 1 were consumed shortly after exercise or at an entirely different time of day.

This was the most glaring weakness of the study because it was completely avoidable. The authors could have grouped the studies into categories that made more sense.

In other words, there are multiple weaknesses that limit the predictive power of this study.

What Can We Learn From This Study?

Despite its many limitations, this study does remind us that protein supplements do have calories. This is of relatively little importance for people whose primary goal is to increase lean muscle mass.

However, most of us are using protein supplements to lose weight or to increase our lean mass to fat mass ratio. Simply put, we are either trying to lean out (shape up) or lose weight. And, we want to lose that weight primarily by getting rid of excess fat. For us, calories do matter. With that in mind:

  • If we are consuming a protein supplement immediately after exercise or between meals we probably should make a conscious effort to reduce our daily caloric intake elsewhere in our diet.
  • Alternatively, we could consume the protein supplement with a meal, but time the meal so it occurs shortly after exercise.

 

The Bottom Line:

 

A recent study looked at the optimal timing of protein supplements consumed by subjects who were engaged in resistance exercise. Specifically, the study compared protein supplements consumed with meals versus protein supplements consumed between meals on weight, lean muscle mass, fat mass, and the ratio of lean muscle mass to fat mass. The study reported:

  • Protein supplements consumed with meals were less likely to lead to weight gain than protein supplements consumed between meals.
  • Timing of protein supplementation did not matter with respect to increase in muscle mass.
  • Protein supplements consumed with meals were more likely to lead to loss of fat mass.
  • Protein supplements consumed with meals were slightly more likely to lead to an increase in the ratio of lean mass to fat mass.

The authors pointed out that their findings were consistent with previous studies showing that when a protein supplement was consumed with a meal it displaces some of the calories that would have been otherwise consumed. Simply put, people naturally compensate by eating less of other foods.

In contrast, the authors said that previous studies have shown that when foods, especially liquid foods, are consumed as snacks (between meals), people are less likely to compensate by reducing the calories consumed in the next meal.

As discussed in the article above, the study has major weaknesses. However, despite its many weaknesses, this study does remind us that protein supplements do have calories. This is of relatively little importance for people whose primary goal is to increase lean muscle mass.

However, for those of us who are using protein supplements to lose weight or to increase our lean mass to fat mass ratio, calories do matter.  With that in mind:

  • If we are consuming a protein supplement immediately after exercise or between meals we probably should make a conscious effort to reduce our daily caloric intake elsewhere in our diet.
  • Alternatively, we could consume the protein supplement with a meal, but time the meal so it occurs shortly after exercise.

For more details, read the article above:

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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