Possible Reduction In Cancer Risk Linked To Eating Organic Foods

I was recently told by an interview subject for the upcoming issue of Garden Culture Magazine that you don’t have to be rich to be philanthropic. He told me he thinks simply buying organic food contributes to great environmental causes, because you’re supporting the good people who grew it and the amount of energy they’ve put into caring for what we eat and how it’s been grown. He believes we’re making a real statement when we buy organic.

It turns out we might also be taking a real stance where our health is concerned. A recent study is suggesting we can protect ourselves from cancer by eating organic foods.

Published in JAMA Internal Medicine, French researchers have found people who eat mostly organic are more likely to prevent non-Hodgkin lymphoma and postmenopausal breast cancer compared to those who rarely or never eat organic foods.

Nearly 70,000 adults took part in the study; 75% of the group consisted of women in their mid-40s. They were split into four groups depending on how often they claimed to eat 16 organic products ranging from fruits and veggies to meat, fish, oils, and condiments.

Follow-up time was an average of four and a half years for every participant, and the study reveals that during that time, volunteers reported 1,340 cases of cancer. Breast cancer was the most common diagnosis, followed by prostate cancer, skin cancer, colorectal cancer, and non-Hodgkin lymphomas.

After looking at the results, researchers were able to determine those who at the most organic food were 25% less likely to develop cancer. More specifically, they were 73% less likely to be diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and 21% less likely to develop postmenopausal breast cancer.  

Defining Organic

Organic certification varies from country to country, but if you look at the rules for the US, organic crops are grown without the help of any synthetic pesticides, GMOs, petroleum-based fertilizers, and sewage sludge-based fertilizers.

If meat, eggs, and dairy are labelled as organic, the livestock must have had access to the outdoors and been given organic feed. Antibiotics, growth hormones, or any animal by-products can never be used.

Conflicting Opinions

The problem with this study is that up until now, there has been absolutely no evidence that organic foods are more nutritious or any safer for you than conventionally-grown products. The Dieticians of Canada organization says that while sometimes organic foods do contain more nutrients than their non-organic counterparts, other times they contain the same amount of nutrients, or even less than those grown on non-organic farms.

In Canada, both organic and non-organic foods are considered to be equally as safe for human consumption. Having said that, lower pesticide levels are typically found in organic crops, and the recommendation of the Dieticians of Canada and many other health groups is to reduce exposure to those chemicals when you can.

So What Does It All Mean?

In its report about the recent study, CNN mentions Dr. Jorge E. Chavarro, an associate professor at Harvard, who is calling the findings very important.

He wasn’t involved with this study in France, but he has done previous work finding a correlation between organic food consumption and reduced pesticide amounts found in urine. The International Agency for Research in Cancer has also found that pesticides cause cancer in humans.

So when it comes down to it, eating organic food just might cut your risk of developing cancer because you would likely be ingesting a much lower amount of pesticides. Chavarro says it’s a correlation that the scientific community should definitely be further exploring.

I think so too.   

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Catherine Sherriffs

Editor at Garden Culture Magazine

Catherine is a Canadian award-winning journalist who worked as a reporter and news anchor in Montreal’s radio and television scene for 10 years. A graduate of Concordia University, she left the hustle and bustle of the business after starting a family. Now, she’s the editor and a writer for Garden Culture Magazine while also enjoying being a mom to her three young kids. Her interests include great food, gardening, fitness, animals, and anything outdoors.