Nutritional content of organic wheat little different, study says

by Editorial Staff
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SCHUTZENBERG, GERMANY — The nutritional content of organically grown wheat is basically the same as in grain grown by traditional methods, according to a study published in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry.

Organically grown wheat may have different labeling and a higher price, but it contains essentially the same profile of amino acids, sugars and other metabolic substances as wheat grown by conventional methods, the study said.

The study, conducted by Christian Zorb and colleagues at the Institute for Biochemistry of Cereals and Potatoes, Federal Research Center for Nutrition and Food, Schutzenberg, produced perhaps the most comprehensive metabolic profile of wheat from organic and conventional farming to date, according to Science Daily.

The aim of the study was to obtain a metabolite profile for wheat grown under comparable conventional and organic conditions. Other studies have been done to determine levels of key nutritional substances, but they used samples from the marketplace or retail shelf and did not take into account different agronomic influences, according to the Zorb study.

Wheat grains from a long-term biodynamic, bioorganic and conventional farming system near Basel, Switzerland, from the 2003 harvest were analyzed. The researchers detected 250 and identified 52 different metabolites arranged in five groups containing 14 amino acids, 11 sugars and sugar derivatives, 5 sugar alcohols, 12 organic acids and 10 other metabolites. Only 8 metabolites showed significant differences based on farming practice.

Differences in the levels of amino acids between organic and conventionally grown wheat was determined to have a negligible effect on nutritional value. In sugars and sugar alcohol, important for the taste and quality of grain, no significant differences in glucose, fructose, saccharose, maltose and erythrose-4-P were detected. However, a small but significant difference was detected in the amount of myo-inositol, which was higher in the organic system. Significant differences also were found in some organic acids. The study also showed no differences in nucleotides based on farming practices.

"The statistical analysis of the data shows that the metabolite status of the wheat grain from organic and mineralic farming did not differ in concentrations of 44 metabolites," the researchers said. "This result indicates no impact or a small impact of the different farming systems. In consequence, we did not detect extreme differences in metabolite composition and quality of wheat grains.

"A decreased nutrient supply of the grains could not be confirmed by our data, because assimilate production, mirrored in sugar and sugar alcohol amounts in grains, was not significantly affected."

The study, combined with results of other studies, also showed that reduced production in organically grown wheat was the result of fewer kernels of grain, not in the kernel weight.

Mr. Zorb and colleagues also said organic agriculture is at least an alternative to conventional agriculture because it uses less fertilizer and no herbicides or pesticides while providing the same nutritional quality. In some European countries up to 8% of the agricultural area is managed organically. MBN

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