Does Organic Food Lower Your Cancer Risk?

A new study, published this past October, has found eating organic foods can contribute to lowering cancer risk.

The study, which was published in JAMA Internal Medicine, followed nearly 70,000 French adults, most of them women, for a period of five years. The researchers tracked how often the participants ate 16 types of organic foods. They found the participants who consumed organic foods most frequently had 25 percent fewer cancers across all types, than those who never ate organic foods.

In particular, those study participants who ate the most organic foods were more likely to ward off non-Hodgkin lymphoma and postmenopausal breast cancer compared to those who rarely or never ate organic foods.

The link between an organic and non-organic diet was most drastic for lymphomas. According to an article published by the New York Times, the most frequent consumers of organic foods had 76 percent fewer lymphomas, and 86 percent fewer non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas. However, non-Hodgkin lymphoma was one of the cancers participants developed the least. There were 47 instances among 68,946 adults, as summarized by the CNN.

Postmenopausal breast cancers was the most prevalent type of cancer developed by participants. This was followed by prostate and skin cancer. Those participants who ate the most organic food had just 34 percent fewer postmenopausal breast cancers. Thus, diet seems to have a stronger impact on lymphomas compared to other types of cancers.

 

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Why Can Organic Food Lower Cancer Risk?

According to FoodNavigator.com, the study concluded that a possible explanation for fewer cancers among those who ate more organic foods is the “prohibition of pesticide use in organic production methods,” resulting in lower contamination levels.

In 2015, the World Health Organization/International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified certain pesticides—like insecticides, malathion, diazinon and the herbicide glyphosate—as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” As using synthetic pesticides isn’t allowed under organic production, an organic-based diet is one way to reduce exposure to these and other potentially harmful chemicals. As this study confirms, eating organic foods can reduce a person’s exposure to some very real causes of cancer.

What’s unique about this study is that it’s one of the best to-date investigations on the link between organic foods and health and cancer. Reporting for the New York Times, Roni Caryn Rabin points out that the only other large study investigating this link was a large British study conducted in 2014. Like this study, it found a significantly lower risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma among women who said they usually or always ate organic food, but a higher rate of breast cancers in organic consumers.

There has, however, been several studies looking at the nutritional quality of organic versus non-organic foods. Studies have found organic foods can contain higher levels of antioxidants and nutrients, like omega-3 fatty acids. FoodNavigator.com says in a statement that IARC added another possible explanation for the findings of this French study. The publication states there is “potentially higher levels of certain micronutrients (carotenoid antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamin C or more beneficial fatty acid profiles) in organic foods.”

 

Why Organic Food Is Great for Your Health

Eating an organic-based diet may offer protection from illnesses and cancer by both providing more nutrition—like higher levels of polyphenols (anti-cancer and -disease compounds)—and reducing exposure to pesticides. Not only is a healthy diet key for feeling happy and well day-to-day, it’s also important for reducing one’s risk for developing many illnesses and chronic diseases.

Eating organic food may also help cancel out the harm done by pesticide residues in conventional foods. It could aid in boosting our immune systems and protect against the numerous environmental toxins we can be exposed to on a daily basis in today’s modern world. One helpful tool for eating organic is the Environmental Working Group’s Clean Fifteen/ Dirty Dozen list. It helps shoppers determine which fruits and vegetables are the “cleanest” and “dirtiest” in terms of pesticide residues.

The researchers of this French study suggest further research is needed to confirm the findings on the link between eating organic foods and developing cancers. They hold firm, however, that organic-based diets could go a long way. “Promoting organic food consumption in the general population could be a promising preventive strategy against cancer,” the study concluded.

 

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