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The Koala project: is organic food more healthy?

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Effect of organic food on children's health

Within the Koala research project (2008-2012), the Louis Bolk Institute investigates whether organic food has a positive effect on health. The study focuses on children aged 7-8 and the development of obesity and allergies in this age group. Results are compared to data collected during an earlier phase of the project (2000-2007). The Louis Bolk Institute conducts this study in collaboration with Maastricht University. The project is funded by the Ministry of Economic Affairs within the framework of the Organic Agriculture policy programme.

Why would organic food be more healthy?

The hypothesis is that organic food has a positive effect on children's health. Organic food is produced without chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Organically grown crops have to be inherently robust to keep pests and diseases at bay. The same applies to organically raised livestock, which only occasionally (rather than systematically) are given antibiotics. If research shows that organic products promote human health, this could be used in marketing. As for animal health, organically grown feed has been shown to positively affect the immune system of chickens.

Koala study is unique in the world

The first part of the Koala cohort study started back in 2000. In that year, comprehensive data were collected on the life style and diet of more than 2800 pregnant women. The children born from these mothers have participated in annual health screenings from their birth. This is the only study in the world that investigates the effect of organic diet and other specific life styles on the health of growing children. Two-year old children consuming chiefly organic -rather than conventional- dairy products were shown to have a 30% lower chance of eczema. Furthermore, the content of the rumenic acid and Trans-vaccenic acid (which are positive fatty acids) in breast milk was higher in women consuming biodynamic products than in the women with a conventional diet. This and various other conclusions have been published in scientific journals such as the British Journal of Nutrition, Organic Agriculture and Allergy.


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Project leader

Marieke C.E. Battjes-Fries

Nutrition & Health