Organic really IS better

If you have any doubts about the value of organic foods vs. conventionally-grown foods, then take a look at the findings from a USDA--Yes, USDA--sponsored study.

In this study, the nutritional content of organic vs. conventionally-grown blueberries were compared. Ironically, these observations come from the USDA's Genetic Improvement of Fruits and Vegetables Laboratory of the Produce Quality and Safety Laboratory.

Their findings (all values expressed as weight per 100 grams fresh weight blueberries, or a bit less than 1/4 cup):


Total phenol content (e.g, flavonoids):

Organic: 319.3 mg
Conventional: 190.3 mg

Organic blueberries had 68% greater phenol content.


Total anthocyanins (an important class of flavonoids):

Organic: 131.2 mg
Conventional: 82.4 mg

Organic blueberries had 59% greater anthocyanin content.


Antioxidant capacity (ORAC):

Organic: 46.14 mg
Conventional: 30.8

Organic blueberries had 50% greater antioxidant capacity.


Flavonoids suspected to carry unusually potent health effects--malvidin, delphinidin, myricetin, and quercetin--were all contained in greater proportions in the organically-grown blueberries, also. These flavonoids are demonstrating pharmacologic-level health effects in preliminary studies.

Why a genetics laboratory? After all , the study findings came out heavily in favor of non-genetic, organic farming methods of growing produce. It certainly must have at least given pause to the vocal group within agriculture and the USDA that have long argued that organic produce is no different. I suspect that the laboratory will now try to recreate the nutritional value of organic through genetic manipulation of cultivars grown using conventional methods.

Regardless of the motivations behind the study, we see that there is no comparison: organic blueberries are superior in nutritional value to those grown with conventional pesticides and herbicides. While the study addressed only blueberries, the dramatic difference makes it likely that similar differences exist in other fruits and vegetables.

Coming on the Track Your Plaque website: An in-depth Special Report on the health effects of anthocyanins.

Comments (18) -

  • Anne

    8/16/2009 1:31:49 PM |

    Dear Dr Davis,

    A little off topic, but I take a good fish oil omega-3 supplement and I eat a lot of fish too (wild and therefore organic), but I've been finding disturbing reports on the net that omega-3s and fish are not so good for us after all because the oils are very easily oxidised in the body, and I'm wondering if you could comment sometime please. Here are some links about the 'dangers' of fish oil:

    http://www.paleonu.com/panu-weblog/2009/6/19/fish-oil-or-not.html

    http://high-fat-nutrition.blogspot.com/search?q=fish+oil

    http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/fishoil.shtml

    Anne

  • hb

    8/16/2009 7:37:23 PM |

    I guess there's no free link? Couldn't see it on the Lab's website.

  • moblogs

    8/17/2009 9:33:45 AM |

    Even if it wasn't better, some things definitely taste better, so the premium is apparent.

  • Nameless

    8/17/2009 6:18:17 PM |

    The problem with organic blueberries (for me) is simply finding them. Seems nobody locally sells organic blueberries.

    As for fish oil, oxidation is a potential issue, but hopefully vitamin E protects against that. There could be a concern though with very large dosing, or bad fish oils. It'd be interesting to see more krill oil vs fish oil studies, testing oxidation, lipid changes, plaque reduction, etc. Krill would, seemingly, avoid some of the oxidation problems fish oil may have.

    I would also be interested if Dr. David considered writing an article about oxidized cholesterol in the future, as it seems to get ignored a lot. But if fish oils did increase oxidized cholesterol in the body to such an extent as to increase plaque, I'd think he would have seen it by now, since most of his patients are probably taking fish oil.

  • Helena

    8/18/2009 11:54:50 PM |

    Dr Davis, I have been reading alot about blueberries and their power to lower LDL cholesterol. But we just went over the fructose and how bad that is for the cholesterol. Am I missing something special with the blueberries? I know they are high in Vitamin C and K, but is that it? I feel like I don't know what to believe regarding blueberries. Thankful for a reply. Regards, Helena

  • Dr. William Davis

    8/19/2009 1:10:31 AM |

    Hi, Helena--

    Blueberries are, on the whole, good. They have a wonderful complement of flavonoids and other nutrients.

    But, too much of a good thing . . . Then the fructose gets you. So, a modest quantity is good, just as in many other foods.

  • Dr. William Davis

    8/19/2009 1:12:11 AM |

    Anne-

    The fact remains: Large clinical studies that have looked at cardiovascular events and mortality, such as GISSI-Prevenzione, have demonstrated significant reductions.

    I agree that we must always question "conventional" wisdom. But sometimes conventional wisdom is correct.

  • Richard A.

    8/19/2009 4:02:36 PM |

    From what I understand, wild blueberries are higher in anthocyanins than are the standard blueberries. Wild blueberries are smaller in diameter than the standard.

    In southern California, Trader Joe's carries wild blueberries at a good price -- about $2.99 for 16 ozs. Indeed, TJ's has a good selection of berries at a good prices.

    http://www.wildblueberries.com/

  • Tom

    8/19/2009 4:37:04 PM |

    This website that Anne posted - http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/fishoil.shtml - raises some pretty frightening concerns about supplemental fish oils, and he includes references to studies that seem to confirm some of his points.

    Dr. Davis, have you had anopportunity to read his comments, and if yes, what is your thinking about his allegations?

    Thank you.

    Tom

  • David

    8/19/2009 4:39:26 PM |

    Hi Dr. Davis,

    Do you ever see patients that have a zero calcium score? I'm just wondering if your diet/lifestyle advice applies as well for prevention as it does for your sample of patients.  

    Thanks,
    David

  • karl

    8/19/2009 6:47:52 PM |

    Where can one find this study? Were both blueberries the same species?

    I've wondered if the smaller wild blueberries had more skin and thus more flavinoids?

  • Kismet

    8/19/2009 11:21:18 PM |

    Tom, if anything the risks of Omega-3 fatty acids might outweight their benefits in a select few: exceptionally healthy people with no risk factors whatsoever. (And never forget that dosis sola venenum facit.)
    I guess it certainly does not apply to Dr. Davis' patients and probably not to most of us.

    There may be pros and cons of taking high or moderate doses of fish oil but that is to be expected, isn't it? It's a matter of risk:benefit ratios. If large interventional trials show a mortality benefit in certain populations, then we can be sure of it.

    I've planned to read up on the issue of O-3 and those purpoted risks for quite some time (but haven't, so take my opinion FWIW).

  • Nameless

    8/20/2009 12:48:51 AM |

    I expect this will come up in the upcoming report on Anthocyanins, but a recent study has shown some nice lipid improvements using approx the equivalent to a cup of blueberries --

    http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/ajcn.2009.27814v1
    http://inhumanexperiment.blogspot.com/2009/08/anthocyanins-from-berries-increase-hdl.html

    The study used an extract, so they seemingly got around the fructose issue. But I think the benefits of blueberries would outweigh the relatively low levels of fructose anyway. It's really the only affordable way to get enough anthocyanins to match the study, until some pharmaceutical company gets wind of it, I guess. *Black Currant/Blueberry pills ala Lovaza*

  • Van Rensselaer

    8/20/2009 3:36:10 AM |

    Anne,

    I've read the blog posts from both Hyperlipid and Panu you've provided.  I think Peter at Hyperlipid raises some very interesting questions, but I'm really not prepared to get carried away with panic.  First, I think it's very important to keep in mind that the study Peter cites had the subjects consuming 30 ml of fish oil per day.  Total omega-3 content alone was in the neighborhood of 15 ml, if I recall correctly.  This is an enormous dose!  Furthermore, Peter makes the point that this is probably only an issue with concurrent consumption of excessive carbs and/or alcohol (and excessive omega-6, one suspects...), perhaps thus explaining why Eskimo on a traditional diet do not experience hepatic steatosis, etc... at such high levels of omega-3 intake.  As for the "raypeat" article you've provided, I can only say that I've checked out two of the papers he cites, and was left a bit puzzled.  For instance, the issue of liver toxicity he mentions (I first followed this issue based on the concern Peter @ hyperlipid raised) refers to a study using a rabbit model.  Very interesting, but it's critical to ask just how much fish oil you can force-feed a herbivore before something horrible happens.  We've seen very wrong and enduring dietary advice arise from studies using rabbit models before (ie the lipid hypothesis), so I say, let's not jump to conclusions.  The second study raypeat points us to "Mechanisms for the serum lipid-lowering effect of n-3 fatty acids" really doesn't have much to say about deleterious effects, as far as I can see.  Here's a quote for you: "The finding that n-3 fatty acids are transported from the liver as ketone bodies to a larger extent than n-6 fatty acids may thus explain that a high intake of n-3 fatty acids is not accompanied with hepatic steatosis."

    I'll keep reading up in the meanwhile.  This is a pretty fascinating subject to me.

    Oh, and I like my blueberries!  Lots of tasty organic options in the SF Bay Area.  I think Michael Pollan mentioned in one of his books that wild and organically raised plants tend to have a much higher antioxidant content because they're left to their own devices, having to fend for themselves rather than rely on the crutch of insecticides to protect them...

    Kind regards,

    Van Rensselaer

  • Van Rensselaer

    8/20/2009 3:58:24 AM |

    I forgot to say that Aronia, aka "chokeberry" is supposedly loaded with anthocyanins.  I've bought the juice from Trader Joe's before.  It's not very sweet at all and is astringent like unsweetened 100% cranberry juice.  Maybe an ideal candidate?  Low in sugar, high in anthocyanins.


    Van Rensselaer

  • Anonymous

    8/20/2009 1:26:56 PM |

    To the risks of O-3s... I understand that some genetic variants are linked to these risks.  I would very much like to know the good Doc's opinion on genetic testing and variation, and how it affects they way we metabolize certain nutrieints.  Perhaps there is no "one diet fits all" solution, but rather a "one diet fits a genotype."

  • robert

    9/3/2009 8:19:26 PM |

    Hello Readers and Dr. Davis,

    Let me try to clear up what may be a little confusion regarding the USDA organic vs conventional blueberry results for phenolic profile, total anthocyanins, and the ORAC value of each. Firstly, organic blueberries are grown and harvested from the wild and although they do get some management, they are supremely adapted to their cold northern environment and fare well enough left alone and are are "organic" by default (some managers do apply fertilizers and set fires for weed control). These wild northern bluberries are Vaccinium angustifolium. On the other hand, "conventional" blueberries are generally more southerly tetraploid and hexaploid species, Vaccinium corymbosum and V. ashei and interspecific hybrids developed for the fresh market and the emphasis on uniform, dry scar fruit with pleasing color and shelf life to withstand the rigors of the food system. The wild types have far more phenols and anthocyanins located just under their skins on a per gram basis than modern cultivars of V corymbosum and relatives. However, they also do not stand up well to the logistics of shipping fresh to millions of retail outlets and tend to "bleed" anthocyanin when disturbed. For this reason, most are canned or frozen. The point is that USDA did not really segregate their data properly if it was not a straight comparison between like species and known environments. Comparing V. angustifolium from Maine or Canada with V. corybosum used for the fresh market for these constituents does not give a clear picture that "organic" techniques automatically infer higher concentrations of components desirable for human consumption than "conventional" cropping. There is much more going on than production techniques and these conclusions do not hold as a consequence of technique when applied to the exact same cultivar. I work on the genetic improvement of blueberry and other small fruits so I have a bit of experience with this. If you want the antioxidants of blueberries on a year-round basis, buy the Dole frozen wild blueberries. BTW, I don't work for Dole. Hope this helps. Thanks.

    Robert C. Richardson, Ph.D.

  • John Adam

    9/4/2009 4:32:32 PM |

    Fwd this to anyone having cholesterol problems. This will cure in a month. They will see the results in no time. Its from no.1 company on earth. Check it for yourself. I tried it myself. It can be found here....
    http://tinyurl.com/m9n4mb

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Roger's near-miss CT angiogram experience

Roger's near-miss CT angiogram experience

Heart Scan Blog reader, Roger, described his near-miss experience with CT coronary angiograms.

Hoping to obtain just a simple CT heart scan, he was bullied to get a CT coronary angiogram instead. Roger held strong and just asked for the test that we all should be having, a CT heart scan.


I posted yesterday that I was about to have my first CT heart scan...well, it was an interesting experience for reasons I coudn't possibly have anticipated. Dr. Davis has commented in the past on the confusion in the media about the difference between a CT calcium score scan, and a CT angiography, the latter requiring a far higher dose of radiation. I assumed this was a source of confusion only among patients and lay folks, but, lo and behold, I discovered today that doctors--or at least their helpers--can be just as confused.

Here's my story:

After checking in, I asked the receptionist to see if she had any information on whether my medical insurance was covering the scan. She called someone, and I heard her say over the phone, "He's here for a CT angiogram." At that point my ears perked up. I explained I wasn't here for a CT angiogram, only a regular CT scan. "Well, do you want to call your doctor and talk about this?" she asked. No, I said, I would like to ask one of their folks to verify exactly what test my doctor had ordered. As luck would have it, the technician was walking by at that point. "Is this a CT angiogram?" the receptionist asked. "No, it's just a CT calcium score scan" was the reply. But apparently the technician had been unclear herself, and had called my doctor just to verify. In other words, the "default" procedure they were accustomed to doing at this august Houston vascular clinic was a CT angiogram.

In fact, my appointment was even listed on their calendar as a "CT angiogram." For all I know, my insurance will be billed for the same. Later, during the procedure, the technician acted surprised I wasn't doing the "full test." I explained I had minimal risk factors (actually only one, an HDL of 34 a couple of years ago, which has since been raised to 50 partly as a result of taking advice from this site), but that my doctor was progressive (he is an MD for the Houston Astros) and thought it was a good idea since there is heart disease in my immediate family. My doctor did indeed prescribe only a CT calcium score scan, but it seems to have been an order that this clinic, at least, wasn't all that used to seeing.

So, I guess the message is: we have a lot of educating to do. Had I not been a faithful reader of these pages, I certainly wouldn't have known what kind of test I was about to get, or what questions to ask!

As for the heart scan itself, a piece of cake. If you can hold your breath, you can take this test. Just be sure it is the right one!



Why the "push" towards CT coronary angiograms and not "just" a CT heart scan? Well, I know it's shocking but it's . . . money!

CT coronary angiograms yield around $1800-$4000 per test. CT heart scans yield somewhere around $200. Though the scan center support staff might not care too much about the money themselves, their administrators likely make the cost distinctions clear to them.

Another reason: Most scan center staff, ironically, don't understand what a heart scan means, nor do they understand how it might serve to launch a program of prevention. They do understand that severe blockage by CT angiogram "needs" to be stented or bypassed. So they push patients towards things they understand.

Nobody makes money from CT heart scans, just as nobody makes money from a mammogram. Heart scans also don't lead to heroic, "lifesaving" procedures. They just lead to this sleepy, unexciting, inexpensive thing called prevention.

Comments (13) -

  • Mark K. Sprengel

    6/28/2009 11:35:08 AM |

    I had a friend that recently went for a heart scan. He said his score was zero. Is that possible?

  • Anonymous

    6/28/2009 4:31:52 PM |

    I hope the USA can see its way to some sort of national standards for State run medicare. As recent events show, if you have the will, the money will be found.

    I live in Ontario, Canada and only had to ask my primary care physician in order to get a CT angiogram (did not know about the Calcium score at the time) It's cost is covered under our social medicine program OHIP.

    A new study shows 30% drop in mortality from CD

    http://www.theheart.org/article/980589.do

  • Anna

    6/28/2009 5:30:18 PM |

    Sure it is.  My score was 0.  That's despite doing quite a bit in direct opposition to the AHA recommended dietary advice:

    -no wheat/gluten at all (whole or refined)
    -very few, if any grains (whole or refined)
    -very low sugar and starch consumption (low carb)
    -pastured red meat several times a week (bison, beef, or pork)  with normal ferritin level
    -high saturated fat consumption (grassfed butter, coconut oil, home-render lard)
    -whole fat dairy (incl raw whole milk and raw milk aged cheese)
    -no attempt to artificially increase fiber, though there's probably a fair amount of fiber in the ample fresh non-starchy veggies I consume
    -2 to 3 "backyard" eggs cooked in ample butter nearly daily for breakfast

  • fred88

    6/28/2009 7:04:06 PM |

    i am 72 years old my calcium score is zero.2 yrs ago i was diagnosed with angina.i took the linus pauling protocol and cured my heart disease.on march 20th 2009 i had a calcium score scan and astounded my cardiologist as my arteries were completely cleared.vitamin c and amino acid is cheap and available. no money in it for doctors.discredited by medical profession.

  • Jim the Guacamole Diet guy

    6/29/2009 5:54:45 AM |

    "Why the "push" towards CT coronary angiograms and not "just" a CT heart scan? Well, I know it's shocking but it's . . . money!"

    No, surely not.

  • billye

    6/29/2009 11:12:29 AM |

    Rogers experience brought back an unpleasant near miss CT Angiogram memory of an episode that I had while being in the hospital 5 years ago. I was  brought in with congestive heart failure-EF 20/25,  Now Don't think you are soon to lose a faithful reader, my EF is now 45/50, due to Aranesp injections, that I am doing exceptionally well on.  My anemia is now under fabulous control.
    But, I digress, one day while in the hospital a beautiful young lady with long flowing hair wearing a white coat and stethoscope came in to see me and identified her self as the cardiologist assistant. She quickly started to promote me to have an angiogram.  I refused. The hospital cardiologist came to see me and I told him not to send me any more sales reps. (he must have learned this technique from big Pharma with all their beautiful drug sales reps). I never did have that apparently unnecessary needless invasive procedure done.  Guess what?, I lived to tell the story.

  • Jim, Guacamole Diet

    6/29/2009 1:03:19 PM |

    One morning last year, I drank way too much strong tea. A few hours later, I had chest pains and tachycardia. I had forgotten about the tea, which with hindsight  was the obvious cause, and I went to an emergency room.

    By the time I got there, the pain had gone, and I should never have stepped into the ER waiting room.

    As soon as they got their hands on me, they wouldn't let me go, claiming that insurance wouldn't pay if I left against doctors' orders. They quickly ran up any thousands of dollars of expensive tests, all of which came back fine.

    They were very unhappy that I refused a coronary artery stent.

    My ejection fraction was 65.

  • Anna

    6/29/2009 6:09:24 PM |

    Anonymous in Canada,

    "A new study shows 30% drop in mortality from CD"

    Yes, modern medicine "saves" more people all the time.  

    But is the *incidence" of CD dropping? or is medicine just getting better at treatment.  I want to avoid CD, not just be saved from it.

    I used to be a strong believer that the US needed a universal medical care system similar to Canada and the UK.  Now that I have had a closer look at the UK's system over the last 14 years (in-laws are there) and have experienced the profound lack of primary prevention under a US HMO system (healthcare rationing), I'm not-so-sure.  

    Sure, we are a rich nation and we should be able to afford decent healthcare for everyone.  The current system is for haves and have-nots with the in-betweens really getting pinched.  And furthermore, the haves don't get nearly the quality of care that they pay through the nose for anyway (though many don't realize it).  

    But I can't see how turning over the decisions to government is going to be any better than it has been to turn over decisions to HMP insurance companies and accountants.  In fact, it could get worse.  Especially since government has turned into the handmaiden for special interests.  As much as I think it should happen, I have a hard time getting behind the proposals.  Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.

  • Anonymous

    6/30/2009 12:51:29 AM |

    ok fred88, you almost got me excited....until I saw the oral EDTA chelation.... I'm calling BS by association

  • Kent

    6/30/2009 1:54:06 AM |

    Fred,

    I've heard a mixture of reports on the Pauling protocol with varied success. Can you give a little more detail as to how much vitaming C, L-Lysine, etc. you took per day at what intervals, and the time duration you believe it took for the protocol to do it's job?

    Thanks,
    Kent

  • TedHutchinson

    6/30/2009 8:39:34 AM |

    Pauling Protocol in PDF format
    take note of this section
    The half-life of vitamin C in the bloodstream is 30 minutes.  
    Linus Pauling advised taking vitamin C throughout the day in divided doses. The Hickey/Roberts Dynamic Flow theory predicts that taking vitamin C  every four hours will produce the highest sustained blood concentrations. Take more before bedtime.

    I use a time release formulation

  • buy jeans

    11/3/2010 8:25:24 PM |

    CT coronary angiograms yield around $1800-$4000 per test. CT heart scans yield somewhere around $200. Though the scan center support staff might not care too much about the money themselves, their administrators likely make the cost distinctions clear to them.

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