SMU Researchers Prove that Eating Organic Makes You Live Longer -- If You're a Fly

We hope, for the flies' sake, that this is an organic orange.
There was a minor furor in the media last year when a study conducted by a researcher at Standford's medical school concluded that organic fruits and vegetables are no healthier than their conventionally raised counterparts. This wasn't quite as newsworthy as the headlines made it sound, since the study was looking mainly at vitamin content of produce, not at the chemicals that were or were not sprayed on it. Precious few people buy organic carrots expecting through-the-roof levels of beta carotene.

Then again, maybe they should. A new study by researchers at SMU, which is clearly more definitive than the Stanford one because it's newer, suggests that eating organic food may cause you to live longer. If you're a fruit fly.

They chose fruit flies essentially because they're easier to keep on an all-organic diet, since they can't sneak off and binge on Twinkies and they don't object to consuming a single type of liquified produce from Whole Foods (either potatoes, raisins, bananas, or soybeans, depending on the fly) for their entire lives. They also live for about a month, making it easier parse out the effect of diet on lifespan.

The Atlantic reported this morning on the study's results:

Despite the relatively poor health exhibited by all -- as happens when one lives its entire life consuming only one type of food -- the flies who ate organic generally performed better on a number of health measures.

Specifically, diets of organic potatoes, raisins, and soy were all associated with significantly longer lifespans, with no difference seen between organic and conventional bananas. Flies raised on organic versions of all four foods were more fertile.

Organic raisins, though, were outliers, associated with poorer outcomes in tests of stress and "starvation resistance."

The takeaway from all this is that fruit flies should take a lesson from that dreadlocked, possibly homeless guy who seems always to be at Whole Foods and consumes nothing but raw organic kale. As for human beings, they should keep in mind that these are bugs that, while handy scientific test subjects, aren't people.

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scottindallas topcommenter

There's more to food than we've identified and tagged.  Organic processes should have a more complex soil biology and should be richer in micro-nutrients that we don't fully understand.  There's not a lot of money in non-patentable methods.  It's telling that SMU, not a major research university, did this study.


Time flies like an arrow.  Fruit flies like an organic potato.


@scottindallas Any research's "bond fides" depend on the particular department, not the school as a whole.  For example, believe it or not, research on all things pertaining to nanotechnology carry more weight if they come from UTA (yes, Arlington) than they do if from Harvard.  Now where genetics (and most other areas) are concerned, it's the other way round.

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