Public Health Nutrition Editorial Highlight: ‘Dietary intakes and diet quality according to levels of organic food consumption by French adults: cross-sectional findings from the NutriNet-Santé Cohort StudyJulia Baudry, Benjamin Allès, Sandrine Péneau, Mathilde Touvier, Caroline Méjean, Serge Hercberg, Pilar Galan, Denis Lairon and Emmanuelle Kesse-Guyot

The organic food industry is gaining more and more market share worldwide, partly due to consumers’ concerns about food safety and food quality. Organic products are deemed healthier because of the absence of pesticides although direct potential benefits on health still need to be documented. Research has shown that heavy organic users have an overall healthier lifestyle than light users or nonusers. To properly investigate the potential links between health and organic food consumption, an identification of dietary consumption patterns of different organic food consumers is necessary.
In our study, we investigated dietary intakes and overall diet quality across five different levels of organic foods in the diet among a large population of French adults.

Key findings
We found that increasing organic food consumption in the diet was linked to overall better diet quality. Adherence to nutritional guidelines gradually increased with organic food consumption in the diet. Furthermore, an inverse gradient was found between consumption of cookies and soda and the proportion of organic foods in the diet. The intakes of plant-based foods including vegetables, soup, nuts, wholegrain products and grains increased across levels of organic food consumption in the diet, while an inverse trend was observed for meat, dairy products, cookies and soda. Overall, a higher level of organic food consumption was related to healthier dietary patterns, although intermediate organic food consumers showed better adherence to nutritional recommendations related to animal product intakes. Noteworthy, we did not take into account the origin (organic v. conventional) of the products when evaluating nutritional profiles as comprehensive food composition tables do not exist. This should be born in mind as that may lead to misestimating some nutrient intakes as some differences between organic and conventional products have been recently reported such as higher antioxidant contents in organic crops.

A positive association was found between organic food consumption in the diet and the nutritional quality of the diet across all sociodemographic or lifestyle categories but the magnitude of this association was variable depending on the subgroup considered.

Future implications
High organic food consumers exhibited better dietary habits, a vegetal-based diet, while intermediate organic food consumers tended to be less restrictive regarding animal-based products. Thus, not only may the consumption patterns of high organic food consumers be linked to lower risk of chronic diseases but also their high consumption of organic products – with some potentially better nutritional profiles and with no or lower contents of pesticides – may lead to better health status than their counterparts, although this still needs to be documented. Their dietary patterns moreover seem to fit to those of sustainable diets. Development of updated food composition databases accounting for farming practices is necessary to estimate nutrient intakes of high organic food v. non-organic consumers. To accurately assess potential effects of consumption of organic products, future etiological studies need to take into consideration all components of the diet (dietary patterns as well as level of organic food consumption in the diet).

The paper ‘Dietary intakes and diet quality according to levels of organic food consumption by French adults: cross-sectional findings from the NutriNet-Santé Cohort Study‘ is freely available for one month.


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