Organic food can help you live longer–if you happen to be a fruit fly. A study from researchers at Southern Methodist University found that fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) fed on a diet of organic produce experienced increased fertility and longevity. This could have implications for humans, but don’t start using the study as a pro-organic talking point just yet.
The researchers involved in the study (including high school student Ria Chhabra, who was inspired to initiate the study after speaking with her parents about the benefits of organic food) nourished growing fruit flies with produce–bananas, potatoes, raisins, and soy beans bought from a grocery store. Some of the flies received conventional produce, and others ate organic versions.
Ultimately, the researchers found that none of the flies lived that long–as they note in the study, “Drosophila cultured on produce extract diets were generally shorter lived than flies raised on regular lab food, presumably due to limited nutritional balance in diets prepared from a single produce source.” Within the confines of the study, however, the flies who ate on the organic foods fared best (though the flies that gorged themselves on just organic raisins fared worse so, you know, be careful). The flies fed with organic produce also had a longer egg production peak than their counterparts.
At this point, you might be thinking that the study is a major rebuke to another study from 2012 that found organic food to be no more healthy than conventionally grown food. But that study actually looked at humans, not fruit flies. Another problem: The more recent study provides no indications as to why the fruit flies lived longer and more fertile lives. So take any pro-organic conclusions with a grain of natural sea salt.
The researchers do have some ideas about what caused their results: “Several studies have shown that organic food contains higher levels of essential nutrients, such as an increase in total protein content and unsaturated fatty acids in dairy products, or an increase in antioxidants in spinach, tomatoes, or bell peppers. Organic food has furthermore been shown to contain lower levels of nitrates, which may explain some of the improved health characteristics of Drosophila raised on organic foods.” But they can’t say anything definitively. Without further research, this is a small win for organic foods.