The challenge of evaluating health effects of organic food; Operationalisation of a dynamic concept of health

Machteld Huber*, Mette H. Bakker, Wieneke Dijk, Henrieke A.B. Prins, Fred A.C. Wiegant

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The health benefits of consuming organically produced foods compared with conventional foods are unclear. Important obstacles to drawing clear conclusions in this field of research are (1) the lack of a clear operational definition of health and (2) the inability to distinguish between different levels of health using valid biomarkers. In this paper, some shortcomings of the current definition of health are outlined and the relevance of integrating a more dynamic and functional component is emphasised, which is reflected by the ability to adapt. The state of health could then be determined by challenging an individual with some form of stressor and by subsequent quantification and evaluation of the coherence in recovery of various physiological processes and parameters. A set of relevant parameters includes the activity of the immune system and the activity of the autonomous nervous system. A good recovery towards homeostasis is suggested to reflect a qualitatively good state of health. Furthermore, it would enable objective evaluation of health-optimising strategies, including the consumption of organically produced foods that aim to strengthen health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2766-2773
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the Science of Food and Agriculture
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes

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