Fruit flies fed organic diets are healthier

Fruit flies raised on diets based on organic foods performed better on a variety of health tests, including fertility and longevity

Researchers aren’t sure why, but fruit flies fed organic fruits and vegetables in a laboratory study lived longer and produced more offspring than flies fed a non-organic diet.

The study from the lab of SMU biologist Johannes H. Bauer, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, found that fruit flies raised on diets of organic foods performed better on several tests for general health.

“While these findings are certainly intriguing, what we now need to determine is why the flies on the organic diets did better, especially since not all the organic diets we tested provided the same positive health outcomes,” said Bauer, principal investigator for the study in an SMU release.

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The release said fruit flies on organic diets showed improvements on the most significant measures of health, namely fertility and longevity.

“We don’t know why the flies on the organic diet did better. That will require further research. But this is a start toward understanding potential health benefits,” said student Ria Chhabra, a student at Clark High School in Plano, Texas, who led the experiment.

Bauer, an assistant professor in SMU’s department of biological sciences, mentored Chhabra by helping guide and design her research experiments. The research focus of Bauer’s fruit fly lab is nutrition and its relationship to longevity, health and diabetes.

Because of the low costs associated with fly research and the fly’s short life cycle, researchers use fruit flies to study human diseases, from diabetes to heart function to Alzheimer’s disease, the release said.

The findings, “Organically grown food provides health benefits to Drosophila melanogaster,” have been published in the open-access journal PLOS One. Bauer and Chhabra co-authored the paper with Santharam Kolli, a research associate at SMU. The article is available from PLOS One online at http://bit.ly/RGB8LJ.

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