Does Eating More Organic Foods Cut the Risk of Cancer?

23 October, 2018, 21:56 | Author: Sherman Richardson
  • Organic produce

Participants completed questionnaires that asked them how often they ate commonly labeled organic foods: never, occasionally, or most of the time.

"While these two people may have the same level of biological exposure, they are different in terms of their motivation to eat organic and likely in many other aspects of their health behaviors, which could ultimately explain the observed differences in cancer risk in this study".

However, the inverse association between frequent consumption of organic food and cancer risk was confined to postmenopausal breast cancer and all lymphomas including non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL), they noted inJAMA Internal Medicine.

One of the requirements for a food to be labeled organic in Europe and the U.S.is that it must be produced without the use of most synthetic pesticides.

There's a previous study from the United Kingdom which also shows a lower risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, but in that study you find a higher risk of breast cancer - as opposed to a lower risk of breast cancer - associated with consuming organic foods. Specifically, they were 73% less likely to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma and 21% less likely to develop post-menopausal breast cancer. The authors conclude, "Although our findings need to be confirmed, promoting organic food consumption in the general population could be a promising preventive strategy against cancer". "It's good to eat organic if you can because we know pesticides are carcinogens", Dr. Moline says. "That is because deciding to eat organic foods or not is a decision that has very strong social and economic determinants".

The authors theorize a "possible explanation" for the negative relationship between organic food and cancer risk stems from the "significant" reduction of contamination that occurs when conventional foods are replaced by organic foods. "And it would be premature to make organic food consumption recommendations based just on this study".

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In an accompanying editorial, Frank B. Hu, MD, PhD, and Jorge E. Chavarro, MD, ScD, both of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues said the study had several strengths, such as its large sample size, prospective design, and modest loss to follow-up. They did collect information on why people were not consuming organic food, but they didn't try to separate whether the effects are the same if you're not eating organic foods because you don't care or because you can not afford it. Study participants also self-reported their food intake, and such self-reporting is notoriously inaccurate. One is actually for medical researchers, which is that we should probably be paying more attention to this than we are, that the exposure to pesticide residues through foods may be a more important exposure than we have realized until now.

"For example, foods may be labeled 'USDA organic certified, ' 'organic, ' 'natural, ' 'made with organic ingredients, ' 'no drugs or hormones used, ' or 'sustainably harvested, ' so often times people may think they are consuming organic products when they are not", he told MedPage Today in an email.

"Assessing intake of diet is hard, assessing intake of organic foods is notoriously hard", said Chavarro.

Dr. Dale Shepard, a Cleveland Clinic physician who did not take part in the research, pointed out that people who eat organic foods also have the tendency to eat healthier diets and exercise more, which are also traits that have been associated with reduced cancer risk.

"Therefore, choosing organic versus non-organic foods will not necessarily capture actual exposure to pesticides, and other chemicals, without knowing the specific foods chosen as organic or conventional", Chavarro stated.

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