When you hear the word “organic”, the first thing that will probably come to your mind is “healthy”. Indeed, people who buy organic foods do so because they believe it is better for their health. It may cost more than regular vegetables, fruits, and even meat, but it’s all worth it — in the name of health. However, many do not realise that it is until very recently, that there has actually been little evidence of the benefits of eating organic food.
Until now, that is. A recent study was conducted over a period of five years, where 70,000 adults, most of them women, were kept under observation about their habits in daily life. The results of this study have reported that the people who did consume organic food had 25 per cent fewer cancer developments as compared to those who never ate organic at all. The people who ate the most organic fruits, vegetables, dairy products, meat and other foods had a particularly steep drop in any incidences of lymphomas, and women especially experienced a significant reduction in postmenopausal breast cancers.
The results were entirely unsurprising. The research team said that they did expect to find a reduction, but the extent of the reduction was more than what they had estimated. It still does not prove that an organic diet can cause a definite reduction in cancer development, but it does strongly suggest that an organic-based diet could contribute to significantly reducing cancer risk.
What Is Organic Food?
So just what exactly are organic foods? For those not in the know, organic foods are natural produce that has been specially grown and cultivated to be free from all man-made substances like synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, and they are free from any form of genetic modification.
The process of growing organic foods is a thorough one, and it’s not exactly as simple as producing regular foods. For one, organic crops like fruits and vegetables take a longer time to grow as they cannot be injected with certain enhancing chemicals to speed up growth rates. Organic meat from livestock is the same — no growth hormones can be used, so everything stays as natural as possible.
Organic foods also require official certification in many countries, where food and agricultural authorities test to ensure that every product is 100 per cent organic, so consumers get exactly what they pay for. Since the testing process is so stringent, there are no shortcuts to making organic foods, which is why organic produce is typically a lot more expensive when compared with regular produce.
A Healthy Diet
However, there are critics of this study who believe the results don’t prove anything. There may have been other factors at play that helped contribute to the overall success of the study. For one, they believe the researchers’ of this study did not test pesticide residue levels in participants, in order to validate exposure levels.
These critics, some of whom are scientists and nutritionists, believe that is is more important for people to simply eat more fruits and vegetables — whether the produce is organic or not — if they want to prevent cancer. As it is now, many health experts do recommend a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains instead of refined grains, and limited amounts of red meat, processed meat and added sugars. Adhering to this diet will ensure that we remain free from chronic illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure, and yes, cancer as well. Not to mention, it aids in weight loss, and when combined with regular exercise it can help us to lose fat and shape up.
The 70,000 participants in the research study also provided information about their general health status, their occupation, education, income and other details, like whether they smoked. Since people who eat organic food tend to be more health-conscious and may benefit from other healthful habits — and also tend to have higher incomes and more years of education than those who don’t eat organic — the researchers made adjustments to account for differences in these characteristics, as well as other factors like amount of physical activity, smoking, consumption of alcohol, a family history of cancer and weight, and so on.
Even after these adjustments were made, the most frequent consumers of organic food had 76 per cent fewer lymphomas, with 86 per cent fewer non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas, and a 34 per cent reduction in breast cancers that could develop after menopause.
The reductions in lymphomas may not be all that surprising. Epidemiological studies have consistently found a higher incidence of some lymphomas among people like farmers and farmworkers who are exposed to certain pesticides through their work. In fact, three pesticides commonly used in farming — glyphosate, malathion and diazinon — are known to be probable human carcinogens, and linked all three to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. For this fact alone, it may be worth paying a higher price to get all-natural food, so that we may stay free from cancer and all other chronic illnesses.