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Feed Composition Differences Resulting from Organic and Conventional Farming Practices Affect Physiological Parameters in Wistar Rats—Results from a Factorial, Two-Generation Dietary Intervention Trial

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Marcin Baranski, Dr Dominika Srednicka-Tober, Dr Leo RempelosORCiD, Gultan Hasanaliyeva, Emeritus Professor Chris SealORCiD, Professor Carlo Leifert



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Recent human cohort studies reported positive associations between organic food consumption and a lower incidence of obesity, cancer, and several other diseases. However, there are very few animal and human dietary intervention studies that provide supporting evidence or a mechanistic understanding of these associations. Here we report results from a two-generation, dietary intervention study with maleWistar rats to identify the effects of feeds made from organic and conventional crops on growth, hormonal, and immune system parameters that are known to affect the risk of a number of chronic, non-communicable diseases in animals and humans. A 2 x 2 factorial design was used to separate the effects of contrasting crop protection methods (use or non-use of synthetic chemical pesticides) and fertilizers (mineral nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) fertilizers vs. manure use) applied in conventional and organic crop production. Conventional, pesticide-based crop protection resulted in significantly lower fiber, polyphenol, flavonoid, andlutein, but higher lipid, aldicarb, and diquat concentrations in animal feeds. Conventional, mineral NPK-based fertilization resulted in significantly lower polyphenol, but higher cadmium and protein concentrations in feeds. Feed composition differences resulting from the use of pesticides and/or mineral NPK-fertilizer had a significant effect on feed intake, weight gain, plasma hormone, and immunoglobulin concentrations, and lymphocyte proliferation in both generations of rats and in the second generation also on the body weight at weaning. Results suggest that relatively small changes in dietary intakes of (a) protein, lipids, and fiber, (b) toxic and/or endocrine-disrupting pesticides and metals, and (c) polyphenols and other antioxidants (resulting from pesticide and/or mineral NPK-fertilizer use) had complex and often interactive effects on endocrine, immune systems and growth parameters in rats. However, the physiological responses to contrasting feed composition/ intake profiles differed substantially between the first and second generations of rats. This may indicate epigenetic programming and/or the generation of “adaptive” phenotypes and should be investigated further.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Baranski M, Srednicka-Tober D, Rempelos D, Hasanaliyeva G, Gromadzka-Ostrowska J, Skwarlo-Sonta K, Krolikowski T, Rembialkowska E, Hajslova J, Schulzova V, Cakmak I, Ozturk L, Hallmann E, Seal C, Iversen PO, Vigar V, Leifert C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Nutrients

Year: 2021

Volume: 13

Issue: 2

Print publication date: 26/01/2021

Online publication date: 26/01/2021

Acceptance date: 21/01/2021

Date deposited: 26/01/2021

ISSN (electronic): 2072-6643

Publisher: MDPI


DOI: 10.3390/nu13020377


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