Unlikely as it may sound, a 16-year-old’s school science project has added weight to the organic versus conventional debate
Life & Style reporter Sarah Berry with The Sydney Morning Herald has covered research carried out in the fruit fly lab of SMU biologist Johannes H. Bauer by Plano, Texas, high school student Ria Chhabra. The article, “Flying in the face of the organic debate,” published April 25.
Bauer, an assistant professor in SMU’s Department of Biological Sciences, mentored Chhabra in her research to examine whether there would be health differences to fruit flies fed an organic diet or a nonorganic diet. Chhabra’s study found that flies fed an organic diet fared better on important health tests, particularly fertility and longevity.
By Sarah Berry
The Sydney Morning Herald
A 16-year-old’s school science project has added weight to the argument that eating organically has greater health benefits than eating conventionally-grown foods.
Ria Chhabra overheard her parents debating the topic and decided to see if she could find out the answer for herself, the New York Times reports.
To test whether organically grown food provides greater health benefits than its conventionally grown counterpart, Chhabra turned to fruit flies; they have around 75 per cent of the genes that cause disease in humans and have a short life span so a variety of biological factors can be studied in a reasonably short period of time.
Her experiment was conducted over her summer break with the help of an assistant professor and a researcher at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. It won her top honours in a national science competition and has now been published in the respected Plos One journal.
Half of the flies in the experiment were fed an organic diet and the other half a conventional one. She then tested levels of fertility, stress resistance, physical activity and longevity.
They found that eating organically improved levels on virtually all fronts.
“These data suggest that organic foods are more nutritionally balanced than conventional foods, or contain higher levels of nutrients, leading to improved fertility and longevity,” they said.
Similarly, flies on the organic diet were more active and had greater stress resistance.
The main exception to these findings was that the diet had to be balanced. Flies that were fed only one type of organic food had shorter lifespans and were less fertile than those fed a balanced conventional diet.
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