Why eat organic?

by Carolyn Matthews

Earlier this week a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine showed that eating more organic foods was statistically significantly associated with a reduction in risk of cancer.

French researchers reviewed the diets of 68,946 middle-aged French adults by questionnaire, assessing how often they reported eating 16 organic foods. The average time on study was 4.5 years, during which time 1,340 cancers developed.

Participants who were in the top quartile of eating organic food were 25% less likely to develop cancer over the ensuing years than those in the lowest quartile. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma was 75% less likely in the organic food eaters, and postmenopausal breast cancer was 21% less likely.

I’ve always favored organic food over non-organic: who really WANTS to partake of pesticide residues and other toxicants? However, it is more expensive to eat totally organic. When your budget is a limiting factor, the most important foods to eat organic are dairy and meat, because they typically are one of the largest sources of fat in our diet and fat is where the persistent organic pollutants are concentrated.

Another option when you only have so much of an organic food dollar to spend is to look at the Environmental working group’s annual list of the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15. The dirty dozen include the top 12 fruits and veggies which are loaded with pesticide/herbicide residues- celery, spinach, apples and strawberries have been on the list for several years running, and shouldn’t be consumed unless organic. The clean 15 include foods like avocados and bananas contamination is minimal and it’s not as important to buy them organic.

Carolyn M. Matthews, MD; Director of Integrative and Functional Medicine, Baylor University Medical Center

Baudry, Julie et al. Association of Frequency of Organic Food Consumption with Cancer Risk. JAMA Internal Medicine. Doi:10.1001, Oct 22, 2018

EWG.org : website for the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15, updated annually