Thursday, 21 July 2011

Organic versus conventional food in the fight against obesity

The following is an article I read in the UK Daily Mail in 2008. The interesting point in the exercise discussed is not so much the fact that it proved that organic was not as expensive as previously perceived, but that the children ate less and were more easily satisfied whilst eating organic food. In a time of growing obesity and programs that are failing to alter the bad eating habits of our children at the school canteen – where even the most vigilant parent cannot control the schoolyard bartering system – it is most noteworthy that the kids were actually happier on the more nutritious, less ‘fun’ food.
The UK's Daily Mail recently ran an experiment involving two families that agreed to swap diets for a full week. One family normally ate nothing but organic food. The other family was in the habit of eating mainly pre-packaged meals and processed goods. To their surprise, the results were that buying organic was cheaper and more popular with the whole family. Gaby Lana who switched to processed food for a week says “We felt unwell, spent more money - £214 compared to our usual £120 - and ended up with two enormous bin bags full of wasteful packaging.” The mother of the Matthiole family that went all organic for a week exclaimed "By the middle of the week, I felt really energetic. The food we were eating was just so crisp, fresh and tasty - even the organic tea tasted better, cleaner than my usual brand. And I noticed that I didn't feel headachy the morning after organic wine. "By the end of the week, I was enjoying cooking again. I also realised the girls had been exceptionally well behaved - eating their meals without complaint and even going to bed when asked - there were none of the usual tantrums. They also asked for far fewer snacks between meals. Interestingly, Amelia suffers with eczema on her legs, and by the end of the week, even that was much better than it normally is, much less red and raw, and I like to think the change in diet helped. "I've become much more aware of issues such as pesticides and additives and I feel as though I'm now nurturing my family. I spent £115 during the week, including several very drinkable bottles of organic wine. "That's less than my normal weekly shop, which comes in at £140 without alcohol. So it's not true that organic has to mean expensive." This UK experience backs up a 2004 report on the spending by Australians on organic food by BFA nutrition spokesperson Shane Heaton. Heaton believes that the key issue in regard to the affordability of organic fruit and vegetables in Australia is consumer education and how households choose to prioritise their spending. Where exactly the average Australian's spending priorities lie can be seen in Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data. Heaton says "the average Australian household spends more on junk food than fruit and vegetables; More on fast-food and take-away than fruit and vegetables; More on alcohol than fruit and vegetables. And the net result of these choices is that we spend nearly twice as much on medical expenses as we do on fruit and veg." Heaton believes that once people become more aware of the issues surrounding food production eg. false assurances given regarding the safety of pesticide residues, the overuse of food additives, rising cancer incidence, etc, they will make more conscious choices of the food they feed themselves and their families. "Who knows? Perhaps, if spending increases on organic fruit and vegetables, people will spend less on junk food, take-aways, alcohol and cigarettes. Perhaps they'll need to spend less on medical and health expenses," he says.

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