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Tests Show Lab Rats Thrive on Organic Food

Fri 18 Feb 2005

The Scotsman (UK)
Rats 'Healthier' on Organic Diet

By Tom Wilkinson, PA

A team of scientists found rats fed on organic food were slimmer, slept
better and had stronger immune systems than others fed on
conventionally-grown produce, it emerged today.

The controversial findings are likely to re-start the debate over whether
organic food is more beneficial for humans, or if as some have said, it is
an expensive alternative which has no effect on health.

In the past scientists have found it difficult to prove whether an organic
diet was beneficial, as health is influenced by many factors.

A team from the Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences, aided by a
Newcastle University scientist, experimented on 36 rats, feeding one group
organic food, another conventionally grown food, with high levels of
fertiliser and some pesticide, and a third group were minimally-fertilised

All the rats were given potatoes, carrots, peas, green kale, apples and
rapeseed oil and the level of nutrients was monitored to make sure they were
the same for each group.

They were also given the same vitamin supplements and all were reported to
have thrived during the experiment.

Pesticide residue was also measured and found to be below detection levels
in all groups.

Yet the scientists found that the rats fed organically-produced food were
measurably healthier, in that they slept better, had stronger immune systems
and were less obese.

Dr Kirsten Brandt, of Newcastle University¹s School of Agriculture, who
last week published findings that carrots contained a cancer-fighting
chemical, helped her Danish colleagues devise the experiment.

She was careful not to overstate the findings, explaining that the team
could not explain why the organic food, with the same nutrients as the
conventionally-farmed produce, seemed to be healthier for rats.

She said: ³The difference was so big that it is very unlikely to be random.

³But we don¹t know if they slept better because they were less stressed and
had a better immune system.

³These things may be related or independent.

³We gave the food to the rats and then we measured what they were doing. If
we want to understand how and why, we need another study.²

She added: ³We can say the reason why the rats have different health was
clearly due to the fact that there was a different growing method, and this
was enough for this result.²

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