My grandmother was born in 1889 and lived to the ripe old age 92. She died of natural causes and had no cancer in her bones. For most of her life, the food she ate was essentially organic. For it was only after WWII, around 1945, that we began applying chemicals used in war to our fields and furrows.
Could her all-organic diet have contributed to her long and healthy life?
A new study suggests that just may be the case.
I have always suspected eating an all-organic diet is better for you. Less exposure to herbicides and pesticides would be my first guess as to why. Healthy soils also produce food with more nutrients, higher antioxidants and lower levels of heavy metals. It just makes sense.
But how do we really know if there is an association between eating organic food and staying healthy?
A groundbreaking study just released in JAMA Internal Medicine shows there may be a substantially lower cancer risk when eating a regular diet of organic food.
The researchers set out to investigate the association between organic food consumption and the risk of cancer in a large group of adults.
The study concluded that high organic food usage is associated with the overall lessened risk of cancer.
They studied a good-sized group of almost 70,000 French individuals over a long period of time, and they found fewer incidents of several types of cancer. Those who ate a predominantly organic diet had fewer cases of post-menopausal breast cancers, prostate cancers, skin cancers, colorectal cancers, non-Hodgkin lymphomas, and other lymphomas.
Overall there was a 25% reduction in the risk of cancer among frequent consumers of organic compared to a group that ate very little or no organic food.
My friend and renowned scientist, Chuck Benbrook, has a great explanation of how they conducted the research and came to these results on his website, Hygeia Analytics. Chuck notes that “the results are in on one of the first, large-scale studies on organic food consumption and cancer risks and they are significant and encouraging.”
I have always assumed that organic foods are less likely to contain pesticide residues than conventional foods, but few studies have examined the association of organic food with cancer risk.
Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in most developed countries. In 2012 the number of new cases of cancer was estimated to be more than 14 million worldwide.
There are many environmental risk factors for getting cancer, and one of the biggest concerns is about exposure to different classes of pesticides found in our food.
Pesticide and herbicide use have increased substantially since the introduction of genetically-modified crops that are bred to withstand heavy applications of toxic inputs like Glyphosate and Malathion.
Meanwhile, the organic food market continues to flourish, fueled by environmental and health concerns.
This growth is justified because organic food standards don’t allow the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and genetically-modified organisms. They also restrict the use of veterinary medications like antibiotics and growth hormones.
Because of this, organic products are less likely to contain toxic residues than conventional foods.
You may argue that diet alone does not guarantee a cancer-free existence. What about genetics, lifestyle or income? To provide a baseline for the study, data on age, sex, occupational status, educational level, marital status, monthly income per household unit, number of children, and smoking status were all collected and observed.
Population risks were calculated in relation to the organic food usage and a family history of cancer to identify how much of the risk was specifically attributable to the organic food score.
In The Organic Center’s blog post regarding the study, its author writes quite succinctly that “…. with this latest JAMA study concluding that ‘promoting organic food consumption in the general population could be a promising preventive strategy against cancer,’ it could be a critical tool for fighting an epidemic [that] is diagnosed in new patients over a million times per year and is estimated to kill over 600,000 people in 2018 alone. We do need more research on the impacts of how our consumption patterns impact our health, but until then I’ll be choosing organic!”
If my grandmother were alive today, she would agree. More research is needed and until it’s done, eat, buy and grow organic.
It just may be one very good path to longevity!