A 10-year study comparing organic tomatoes with rival produce suggests they have almost double the amount of antioxidants called flavonoids that protect the heart. According to the findings, levels of quercetin and kaempferol were found to be on average 79 per cent and 97 per cent higher, respectively, in organic tomatoes.
The study was led by Dr. Alyson Mitchell at the University of California at Davis. Flavonoids can fight heart disease, blood pressure and strokes, and have been linked to staving off some forms of cancer and dementia, said Dr Mitchell.
Differences in soil quality, irrigation and the handling of harvested produce have made direct comparisons difficult in the past, she said. She had conducted two earlier studies to compare organic and non-organic tomatoes. In this latest study, due to be published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the researchers used data from a long-term project that used standardized farming techniques.
Dr Mitchell said the findings can be explained by the availability of nitrogen in the soil. Flavonoids are produced as a defense mechanism that can be triggered by nutrient deficiency. The inorganic nitrogen in conventional fertilizer is easily available to plants and so, the team suggests, lower levels of flavonoids are probably caused by over-fertilizing the soil.
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