Eating an Organic Diet Can Lower Your Risk of Cancer
Some people think organic foods are a marketing fad designed to rob your wallet while others are concerned about the pesticides and insecticides used in conventional farming. Is there really a reason to go organic? New evidence suggests yes, an organic diet may lower your risk of certain cancers.
A French study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) surveyed nearly 70,000 subjects, most of them women, during five years.
They found that those who ate the most organic foods showed 25 percent fewer cancers than the subjects who never ate organic. An organic diet was most strongly linked with significantly lower rates of postmenopausal breast cancers and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
The extent of the reduction is considered quite important by the study authors.
The study backs up findings from a previous British study that followed more than 600,000 women for nine years. That study found an organic food diet was linked to a 21 percent lower chance of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
However, the British study only asked subjects one question about how often they ate organic food while the French study covered more detailed information, including how often they consumed 16 different types of organic foods and information about education, occupation, income, smoking habits, and more to consider other factors that influence cancer rates.
The study found an organic foods diet is more prevalent among those with a higher income and more education. The study adjusted for these factors such as physical activity, alcohol and tobacco use, weight, and family history of cancer.
The subjects who ate organic foods most frequently had astonishing results:
76 percent fewer lymphomas
86 percent fewer non-Hodgkin's lymphomas
34 percent reduction in post-menopausal breast cancers
Previous studies have shown a higher rate of lymphomas among farm workers exposed to certain pesticides so the large reduction in lymphomas among organic eaters is not surprising.
Are Pesticides to Blame?
Previous research shows an organic diet lowers pesticide levels in urine while eating pesticide-laden foods directly increases urinary pesticide levels.
Unfortunately, the UK and French cancer studies did not measure urinary pesticide levels and other scientists are calling for long-term studies to assess why organic foods lower cancer risk.
"Natural" is Not the Same as "Organic"
If you want to eat healthier to lower your cancer risk, be warned that "natural" does not mean "organic."
The USDA has strict guidelines for organic food production and labeling.
Organic. Products can be labeled “organic” if they are independently certified by the USDA National Organic Program standards.
To be certified organic, foods must be produced without genetic engineering, sewage sludge, ionizing radiation, a list of harmful substances, and with only allowable ingredients.
Natural. Except in the case of meat and poultry, the term "natural" is unregulated and these foods may contain artificial ingredients, pesticides, herbicides, growth hormones, antibiotics, and GMOs.
Conventionally-grown produce has higher residues of herbicides and pesticides. A recent report by the Environmental Working Group even found notable levels of glyphosate in all the samples of mainstream breakfast cereals tested.
Conventional animal products are more likely to contain antibiotics, growth hormones, and heavy metals than their organic counterparts.
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