The decades-long organic food debate has found its way from laboratories to farms and our very own kitchens. So, is organic produce really healthier for you? In 2010, Ria Chhabra’s parents were having this very argument when she decided to find an answer.
With a little bit of research, 13-year-old Ria found fruit flies to be the usual suspects for this type of experiment. She reached out to several fly laboratories and peaked the interest of Johannes Bauer, an assistant professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. What began with a middle-school science project has turned into three years of research, science fairs and national competitions. Ria’s work has even been published in the Public Library of Science (PLoS).
Ria’s early experiments with fruit flies confirmed the fact that organic foods contain higher concentrations of vitamin C. Following her early success, Ria moved on to explore the effects of organic foods on overall health. She used the flies to test both organic and conventional foods finding organic foods to be far better for the flies. In fact the flies that consumed organic produce displayed better fertility, stress resistance and longevity than those fed conventionally grown produce.
Dr. Bauer admits that more research is needed to determine causation, but there are a few obvious possibilities. Maybe these results are due to pesticide and fungicide residues in conventionally raised produce or maybe organically raised produce has higher nutrient levels. Another popular possibility is that organically raised plants produce more natural compounds to protect themselves from pests and fungi, which may make the plants healthier.
Today Ria is using the flies to observe the affects of natural remedies like cinnamon and turmeric on Type 2 diabetes. To read Ria’s research, check out Organically Grown Food Provides Health Benefits to Drosophila melanogaster