Is Our Food Not as Nutritious As It Used to Be?
Researchers argue that the scientific evidence of an overall, general decline in the nutritional content of vegetables, fruits, and grains in recent decades is difficult to dismiss.
A tomato, head of broccoli, or ear of wheat no longer contains as many vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, flavonoids, or other nutrients as they used to.
What’s The Evidence?
- For decades, studies have shown that maximizing crop yield results in reduced nutritional value—whether through plant breeding, fertilizers, and/or selection of crop variety.
- Studies have grown high-yield and low-yield varieties of the same crop side-by-side to compare their nutrient value. For every vitamin, mineral, and amino acid studied so far, these comparisons have found that the high-yield crop varieties contain lower nutrient concentrations.
- Studies comparing nutrient levels over time have reported declining nutrient levels in vegetables and fruits during the last 50 to 70 years.These studies show statistically reliable declines of 5-40% or more in minerals and vitamins, especially in vegetables, including:
- 16% decline in calcium
- 38% reduction in riboflavin
- 15% reduction in vitamin c
- 9% reduction in phosphorous
- Studies have found that organically grown crops generally have higher nutritional value than conventionally grown crops—the majority of recent scientific reviews have found that organic foods have more micronutrients, important phytonutrients like carotenoids and flavonoids, and greater antioxidant activity.
Why are these nutrient losses occurring?
Researchers hypothesize that the declining nutritional value of food crops is due to many factors, including:
- Modern changes to the way plants are grown
- These changes include fertilizers, where crops are grown, crop maturity at harvest, and storage times.
- Modern changes to the genetics of plants themselves
- Crop varieties are commonly selected and cultivated for yield, growth rate, or pest resistance. This causes other functions of the plant to suffer —including the ability to extract minerals from the soil, and/or to synthesize vitamins, phytochemicals and other nutrients.
- Increasing atmospheric CO2 has also been linked to nutrient reductions.
Even the Healthiest Diets May Not Be Enough
The general decline in the nutritional content of vegetables, fruits, and grain crops makes it more difficult to satisfy the necessary intake of every nutrient we need everyday. Even the healthiest diets may not be enough to get everything we need for optimal health.
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- Fuhrman J, et al. Nutr J 2010;9:51.
- Major GC, et al. Br J Nutr 2008;99(5):1157.
- Johnston CS. J Am Coll Nutr 2005;24(3):158.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.