March 27, 2013
Fruit Flies Confirm That Organic Food Is Healthier
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redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe OnlineFruit flies that ate organic food were in better health overall than those that ate conventionally grown food, researchers from Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, Texas claim in a new study.
The research, which was conducted in the laboratory of SMU biologist Johannes H. Bauer, was an attempt to determine the potential health benefits of organic food, which is grown without the use of synthetic pesticides or chemical fertilizers. They discovered that the flies that ate organic food showed improvements on several different health measures, including fertility and longevity.
“While these findings are certainly intriguing, what we now need to determine is why the flies on the organic diets did better, especially since not all the organic diets we tested provided the same positive health outcomes,” Bauer, principal investigator for the study and an assistant professor in SMU´s Department of Biological Sciences, said in a statement Monday.
“We don´t know why the flies on the organic diet did better. That will require further research. But this is a start toward understanding potential health benefits,” added Ria Chhabra, a student at Clark High School in Plano, Texas and the researcher who led the experiment.
Chhabra said that she was inspired to conduct the experiment after a conversation she overheard by her parents, in which they wondered whether or not it was worth it to purchase organic food for their potential but currently unverified health benefits.
Previous research has produced conflicting results on those potential benefits. Some studies have shown lower pesticide-related contamination levels and higher levels of nutrients in organic food products, a recent large-scale analysis of all organic food-related studies showed no clear trend, according to SMU.
For their study, Chhabra and Bauer used the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, a commonly used research subject because of its low cost and short life cycles. The flies used in the SMU study were either fed organic or non-organic potatoes, soybeans, raisins and bananas purchased from a grocery store. The effects of each food type were tested independently, and each fly underwent tests for longevity, fertility, stress and starvation resistance.
According to the university, “Some negative or neutral results were obtained using diets prepared from organic raisins, which suggests the beneficial health effects of organic diets are dependent on the specific food item, Bauer said. That might explain some of the inconsistent results in the published studies in the scientific literature, he said, noting some studies suggest there is a nutritional benefit from organic food, while others suggest there is not.”
The study, which was written by Chhabra, Bauer and SMU research associate Santharam Kolli, has been published online by the journal PLoS One.