© Borgis - New Medicine 1/2008, s. 16-19
*Ewa Rembiałkowska1, Renata Kazimierczak2, Dominika Średnicka2, Katarzyna Bieńko2, Magdalena Bielska2
Different aspects of organic and conventional food consumers lifestyle
1Head of Organic Foodstuffs Division, Faculty of Human Nutrition and Consumer Sciences Warsaw University of Life Sciences – SGGW 2Organic Foodstuffs Division, Faculty of Human Nutrition and Consumer Sciences Warsaw University of Life Sciences – SGGW
Summary
Organic food is becoming more and more popular nowadays. At the same time there are still very few studies which enable us to assess objectively the real influence of organic food on human health.
Aim
The aim of this research was to analyze and to compare some aspects of organic and conventional consumers´ lifestyle and to compare the self-assessed health state of organic and conventional consumers.
Material and methods
The research was conducted by a survey method. The questionnaire survey covered 200 women at the average age of 42.3 years: 100 organic consumers and 100 conventional consumers. Respondents were asked to complete an anonymous survey composed of 4 parts concerning health state, nutrition, living environment quality and contact with nature. All the answers were quantified and the received indicators were analyzed by one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA), with significance defined as a p-value = 0.05, using STATGRAPHICS(r)Plus 5.1.
Results
The results of the analyses show that organic consumers assess their health state significantly better in comparison with conventional consumers. The nutritional pattern of organic consumers is also much closer to the nutritionists´ recommendations. Moreover, analysis of living environment quality also shows a significant difference in favour of organic consumers. However, the presented analyses did not show any significant differences between organic and conventional consumers in terms of contact with nature.
Conclusions
Promotion of an ecological lifestyle including organic food consumption can positively influence nutritional pattern and the self-assessed health state of consumers.
Introduction
Organic food is produced under controlled conditions, according to the directions of Council Regulation no. 2092 / 91 (Council Regulation 1991). In organic plant production it is forbidden to use pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, whereas natural animal manures, composts and green manures are allowed. Diversified crop rotation is also very important. In organic animal production it is fundamental to take into consideration animal needs and natural behaviours and to feed animals with fodder produced on the farm. Certification in organic farming guarantees that food production methods are in accordance with the rules and the production system is strictly controlled.
Organic food is becoming more and more popular nowadays. Moreover, there are many studies aimed at analyzing the quality, composition or nutritional value of organically produced foods. Research studies show that the composition of organically produced crops is potentially more profitable for health than conventionally produced crops (Rembiałkowska 2007). Organic crops contain fewer contaminants such as nitrates and pesticide residues but more health-promoting substances such as vitamin C, carotenoids and polyphenolic substances (Rembiałkowska 2007).
At the same time there are still very few studies which enable us to assess objectively the real influence of organic food on human health. Therefore, the main aim of this research was to analyze and to compare some aspects of organic and conventional consumers´ lifestyle and to compare the self-assessed health state of organic and conventional consumers.
Material and methods
The research was conducted by a survey method. The questionnaire survey covered 200 women at the average age of 42.3 years: 100 organic consumers and 100 conventional consumers. Respondents were defined as "organic consumers” if organic products constituted more than 25% of their diet for at least half a year. It was necessary to establish the limit at such a low level because of difficulties in selection of an adequate number of respondents representing a strictly organic diet. The same problem regarded the length of organic consumption period.
Table 1 presents data regarding the length of respondents´ organic consumption period.
Table 1. The length of the period of eating organic.
Time period% of consumers
Half a year5
1 year8
1-2 years19
2-4 years18
More than 4 years50
Table 2 presents data regarding the proportion of organic food in organic consumers´ diet.
Table 2. Examples of issues brought up in the survey.
Part of the surveyIssues
Health stateHow often they have any infectious diseases (influence etc.), if they have/had any chronic diseases (such as diabetes, cholelithiasis, osteoporosis, hyperthyroidism/hypothyroidism, obesity, cancers, chronic diseases of circulatory system, respiratory system, urinary system, reproductive system, nervous system, sense-organs), if they have/had (and how often) problems with alimentary canal (diarrheas, vomiting, stomach-aches, heartburn, indigestion, flatulences), dental decay, skin diseases, allergies, how often they visit doctors, if they ever have been in hospital (if yes - when), if they have headaches (and how often), if they have sleep problems, if they have enough sleep, how often they have stress, what ways they choose to manage their stress, if they are optimistic/pessimistic, if they use stimulants (coffee, tea, cigarettes, alcohol - and how often), if they practice sport regularly
NutritionHow many meals they eat everyday, if they eat breakfasts, if they eat regularly, how often they eat products from different groups, what they can say about the quality/the nutritional value of their meals, and about the atmosphere during the meals, quantity of liquid they drink, if they eat sweets between the meals, if they are on any special diet, if they pay attention to the presence and the quantity of synthetic food additives in food products, how often they visit fast food restaurants
Living environment qualityIf they live in a detached house/block of flats, if they live close to motorways, industrial plants, what is the distance between their home and green areas, what is the level of noise exposure in their living environment
Contact with natureGarden plots possession, presence of animals and flowers in living environment, places where they spend their holidays and weekends, how much time they spend close to the nature
On the other hand, "conventional consumers” were defined as women consuming conventional, market food. Respondents were asked to complete an anonymous survey composed of 4 parts concerning health state, nutrition, living environment quality and contact with nature. Table 3 presents some issues brought up in the survey.
Table 3. Health state indicator of organic and conventional consumers.
OrganicgroupConventional group
Maximum29 points
Mean ? SD21,85 ? 2,83720,28 ? 3,479
SignificanceLSD = 0,885; p=0,0006
Answers to questions from parts 1, 3 and 4 were quantified (an appropriate number of points was assigned to each answer – more points if the answer represented for example better health state or more contact with nature). Three indicators were calculated as a result of the quantification: health state indicator, living environment quality indicator and the indicator of contact with nature. All the data were analyzed by one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA), with significance defined as a p-value = 0.05, using STATGRAPHICS(r)Plus 5.1.
Results
According to the conducted survey, organic consumers assess their health state significantly better in comparison with conventional consumers (table 4).
Table 4. Living environment quality indicator of organic and conventional consumers.
OrganicgroupConventional group
Maximum12 points
Mean ? SD8,33 ? 2,1847,26 ? 2,615
SignificanceLSD= 0,672, p=0,0019
They much more rarely contract infectious diseases, such as influenza. They have fewer problems with the circulatory system, and fewer skin diseases and cancers. They also suffer much more rarely from headaches. Moreover, they declare fewer problems with their alimentary canal and visit hospitals less frequently than conventional consumers. They often choose better ways to manage their stress; more of them practise sport regularly.
The nutritional pattern of organic consumers is also much closer to the nutritionists´ recommendations in comparison with conventional consumers´ nutritional pattern. Organic consumers eat regular meals more often; they also eat more meals during the day; most of them eat breakfast every day; they also drink more liquids. Importantly, organic consumers pay more attention to the presence and the quantity of synthetic food additives in food products. They also visit fast food restaurants much less often than representatives of the conventional group.
The analysis of living environment quality also shows a significant difference in favour of organic consumers (table 5).
Table 5. Contact with nature indicator of organic and conventional consumers.
OrganicgroupConventional group
Maximum18 points
Mean ? SD11,5 ? 3,02011,07 ? 3,641
SignificanceLSD=0,933, p=0,3645 (NS)
Representatives of this group usually live further from motorways and industrial plants. They also live closer to green areas more often. In general they evaluate the surroundings of their places of residence more positively than conventional consumers.
The last of the analyzed issues regarded contact with nature. This part of the survey included questions about possession of garden plots, and about the presence of animals and flowers in respondents´ living environment. Respondents were also asked about places where they spend their holidays and weekends, about the time they spend close to nature. The analysis did not show any significant differences between organic and conventional consumers in this area (table 5).
Discussion
There are many studies evaluating the quality, chemical composition and nutritional value of organic raw materials and products (Rembiałkowska 2000, Asami et al. 2003, Cachoeira and Stertz 2005, Hallmann and Rembiałkowska 2006, Hallmann et al. 2007). Moreover, many researchers have taken up the challenge to evaluate the influence of different agricultural production systems on various physiological parameters, first of all on fertility (Aehnelt and Hahn 1978, Staiger 1986, Velimirov et al. 1992) and the immune system activity in animals (Finamore et al. 2004, Lauridsen et al. 2005). The majority of obtained results clearly show the positive influence of organically produced food on analyzed parameters. What is more, many studies show that exposure to pesticides (occupational exposure as well as dietary intake of pesticides) negatively influences semen quality in humans (Abell et al., 1994; Jensen et al., 1996; Abell et al., 2000). These results induced researchers to analyze the influence of organic food, produced without the use of pesticides, on this fertility parameter. The results of two experiments (Abell et al., 1994; Jensen et al., 1996) show twice as high semen concentrations in men consuming organic food in comparison to those on a conventional diet. At the same time there are still very few studies giving conclusive evidence that organic food positively influences human health. There was one study analyzing the self-assessed health state of German nuns consuming biodynamic products for four weeks (Huber et al. 2005). The results of this study showed that the self-assessed health state of women increased after the organic food consumption period: women declared greater power of concentration, they suffered migraines and other headaches much more rarely, they had better appetite and fewer sleep problems, they were more stress resistant, they had lower blood pressure and better immune status, which seems to indicate less stress (fewer T helper cells, and more natural killer cells in blood). Therefore, the results of Huber et al. (2005) confirm the presented results. However, there is no evidence that improvement of nuns´ self-assessed health state was really determined by the positive effect of organic food consumption and did not have a psychological background. The sense of security related to conscious consumption of biodynamic products could have been the main reason for better self-assessment of nuns´ health state. A similar reason may apply to the organic consumers in this study.
Conclusions
1. Organic consumers assess their health state significantly better than conventional consumers;
2. Organic consumers´ diet is much closer to the nutritional recommendations in comparison with the diet of conventional consumers;
3. The living environment quality indicator is significantly higher among organic consumers;
4. Promotion of an ecological lifestyle including organic food consumption can positively influence nutritional pattern and the self-assessed health state of consumers.
Piśmiennictwo
1. Council Regulation no. 2092 / 91 of 24 June 1991 on organic production of agricultural products and indications referring thereto on agricultural products and foodstuffs. 2. Rembiałkowska E: Zdrowotna i sensoryczna jakość ziemniaków oraz wybranych warzyw z gospodarstw ekologicznych. Fundacja Rozwój SGGW, Warsaw 2000. 3. Rembiałkowska E: Jakość ziemiopłodów i produktów zwierzęcych w rolnictwie ekologicznym. Studia i Raporty IUNG - PIB 2007; 6: 59-75. 4. Asami DK, Hong Y-J, Barrett DM, Mitchell AE: Comparison of the Total Phenolic and Ascorbic Acid Content of Freeze-Dried and Air-Dried Marionberry, Strawberry, and Corn Grown Using Conventional, Organic, and Sustainable Agricultural Practises. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2003; 51: 1237-1241. 5. Cachoeira Stertz S, Iverly Santos Rosa M, Joao Sossela de Freitas R: Qualidade Nutricional E Contaminantes Da Batata (Solanum tuberosum L., Solanaceae) Convencional E Organica Na Regiao Metropolitana De Curitiba - Parana. B. Ceppa, Curitiba. 2005; 23, 2: 383-396. 6. Hallmann E, Rembiałkowska E: Zawartość związków antyoksydacyjnych w wybranych odmianach cebuli z produkcji ekologicznej i konwencjonalnej. J. Res. Appl. Agric. Eng. 2006; 51, 2. 7. Hallmann E, Rembiałkowska E, Szafirowska A, Grudzień K: Znaczenie surowców z produkcji ekologicznej w profilaktyce zdrowotnej na przykładzie papryki z uprawy ekologicznej. Annals of the National Institute of Hygiene, 2007; 58, 1: 77-82. 8. Aehnelt E, Hahn J: Animal fertility: a possibility for biological quality-assay of fodder and feeds? BioDynamics 1978; 125: 36-47. 9. Staiger D: Einfluß konventionell und biologisch-dynamisch angebauten Futters auf Fruchtbarkeit, allgemeinen Gesundheitszustand und Fleischqualität beim Hauskaninchen. Dissertation, Universität Bonn 1986. 10. Velimirov A, Plochberger K, Huspeka U, Schott W: The influence of biologically and conventionally cultivated food on the fertility of rats. Biol. Agric. Hortic. 1992; 8: 325-337. 11. Finamore A, Britti MS, Roselli M, Bellovino D, Gaetani S, Mengheri E: Novel Approach for Food Safety Evaluation. Results of a Pilot Experiment To Evaluate Organic and Conventional Foods. J. Agr. Food Chem. 2004; 52: 7425-7431. 12. Lauridsen Ch, Jřrgensen H, Halekoh U, Christensen LP: Organic food and health - status and future perspectives. Paper presented at Researching Sustainable Systems - International Scientific Conference on Organic Agriculture, Adelaide, Australia, September 21-23, 2005. 13. Abell A, Ernst E, Bonde JP: High sperm density among members of organic farmers´ association. The Lancet 1994; 343, 11: 1498. 14. Jensen TK, Giwercman A, Carlsen E, Scheike T, Skakkebćk NE: Semen quality among members of organic food associations in Zealand. Denmark. The Lancet 1996; 347, 29: 1844. 15. Abell A, Ernst E and Bonde JP: Semen quality and sexual hormones in greenhouse workers. Scand. J. Work Environ. Health 2000; 26: 492-500. 16. Huber K, Henning J, Dlugodsch G, Fuchs N: Ernaehrungs-Qualitaetsstudie (Klosterstudie). [in:] Hess. Rahmann (ed.): Ende der Nische. Beitraege zur 8. Wissenschaftstagung Oekologischer Landbau, 2005, 559-562.
Adres do korespondencji:
*Ewa Rembiałkowska
Warsaw University of Life Sciences – SGGW ul. Nowoursynowska 159c, 02-776 Warsaw tel.: + 48 22 5937038; fax: + 48 22 5937036 e-mail: ewa_rembialkowska@sggw.pl

New Medicine 1/2008
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