Organic food is healthier than conventionally grown food—if you're a rat, anyway. A study published last week on the Web site of the Danish Research Centre for Organic Farming found that rats fed a diet of organic potatoes, carrots, peas, kale, apples and rapeseed oil were healthier than rats fed the same diet grown under chemically intensive conditions.
Thirty-six rats were divided into groups and fed either an "organic" diet (the food was grown without pesticides and with "low input of fertilizer"); a "minimally fertilized" diet (low input of both fertilizer and pesticide); or a conventionally grown diet (high input of fertilizer and pesticide). All rats received the same levels of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fat, protein and calories.
Rats fed the organic and minimally fertilized diets had better immunity (as measured by the level of immunoglobin G present in their blood) than those who ate conventionally grown grub.
The organically fed rats also tended to have lower body weight and less fat tissue than the other animals. "Rats are active at night, and there were no differences between the dietary groups with respect to activity at night," the researchers noted. "However, during daytime, when the rats are supposed to rest, our data indicated that rats fed on the organic diet [were] more relaxed than rats fed on other diets."
Furthermore, rats fed organic food had higher levels of vitamin E in their blood.
Because some fertilizer was used in the "organic" diet, and the subjects studied were not human, "the results cannot be directly extrapolated," the researchers wrote. However, the "beneficial effect" they noted is encouraging. "This indicates a positive effect of organically grown foods as compared to conventionally grown food."