Organic food may protect against cancers finds study

According to a new study organic food consumption can protect against cancers.

The study published this week in the latest issue of the journal JAMA Internal Medicine reports that people who consume more organic foods are at a lower overall risk of developing cancer compared to people who do not. Some of the specific cancers avoided are non-Hodgkin lymphoma and postmenopausal breast cancer write the researchers.

Image Credit: StockMediaSeller/ Shutterstock
Image Credit: StockMediaSeller/ Shutterstock

The study leader Julia Baudry, an epidemiologist at Institut National de la Sante et de la Recherche Medicale in France explained that for this study they looked at diets of 68,946 French adults. Of these participants, over three quarters were females and aged in their mid-forties. They were classified into four groups based on their consumption of 16 organic products such as fruits and vegetables, ready-to-eat meals, meat and fish, condiments, spices and vegetable oils and dietary supplements. All participants were followed up for an average of around four and a half years. During this period a total of 1,340 cancers were detected among the participants and of these 459 were breast cancers, 180 were prostate cancers, 135 were skin cancers, 99 were colorectal cancers and 47 were non-Hodgkin lymphomas.

To arrive at the results, the researchers then analyzed the risk and benefits associated with non-organic foods and organic foods respectively in terms of cancer causation. They noted that people who ate more organic foods were 25 percent less likely to get cancers. The risk of getting non-Hodgkin lymphoma was 73 percent and risk of getting post-menopausal breast cancer was 21 percent lower among those who ate organic foods. The risk was low even among persons who ate low quality of food, but organic foods write the authors of the study.

Baudry and her colleagues concluded, “If the findings are confirmed, promoting organic food consumption in the general population could be a promising preventive strategy against cancer.” In a commentary published alongside the study Dr. Jorge E. Chavarro, an associate professor in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health called this study “incredibly important”. He explained that pesticide residues are present in foods and most consumers are exposed to them. He said that yet another study from the International Agency for Research in Cancer has found that pesticides in food are linked to cancer. Some of the implicated pesticides include glyphosate, malathion and diazinon.

Chavarro however cautioned that the study results should be interpreted cautiously. He said, “Assessing intake of diet is difficult, assessing intake of organic foods is notoriously difficult. That is because deciding to eat organic foods or not is a decision that has very strong social and economic determinants. Even though the authors had access to information of why people are choosing not to eat organic foods, they consider all non-consumers of organic foods the same.” He explained that people who chose not to eat organic foods may be ones who are not aware of health risks of a healthy lifestyle and maybe making poor health choices in their lifestyle as well that could be linked to their cancers.

Chavarro called for more in-depth studies to understand the relationship between organic food and cancer prevention better. “Further research is required to identify which specific factors are responsible for potential protective effects of organic food consumption on cancer risk,” authors wrote in their study as well.

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