Eating Organic Foods Cuts Cancer Risk by 25%, Study Says

Visiting the organic section at the supermarket can provide significant benefits to your long-term health by cutting your risk of developing cancer, according to a study appearing in JAMA Internal Medicine in October 2018.

What Did the Study Find?

In a study involving nearly 70,000 participants, French researchers discovered that people who often consumed organic foods were 25% less likely to develop life-threatening cancers, including breast cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Led by Julia Baudry, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at Institut National de la Sante et de la Recherche Medicale in France, the researchers grouped the study participants into one of four categories based on their intake of organic or non-organic foods, from fruits and vegetables to meat and fish to prepared meals and other products, CNN reports. What they found was an inverse relationship between the frequency of organic food consumption and the likelihood of developing different types of cancer.

Overall, those who ate the most organic products were 21% less likely to develop a dangerous form of breast cancer and 73% less likely to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The groups who consumed fewer organic products also had lower risk scores than people who ate the most conventional foods.

The researchers posit that the positive links between organic food consumers and lower cancer risk comes down to contamination avoidance — that is, less exposure to harmful pesticides, which previous research has linked to an array of poor health outcomes.

“If the findings are confirmed, promoting organic food consumption in the general population could be a promising preventive strategy against cancer,” wrote Baudry and her colleagues.

The study findings are in line with research from the International Agency for Research in Cancer, which views pesticides as cancer-causing agents, noted Jorge E. Chavarro, M.D., an associate professor in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Chavarro called the new findings “incredibly important” and said the results are consistent with previous research on specific cancers, such as non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

What Else Should You Know About Eating Organic?

The "Dirty Dozen" is a list of 12 fruits and veggies, created by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), that are commonly contaminated by potentially harmful pesticides and should be purchased organic. If these fruits and vegetables are staples in your diet, spending the money on organic produce may be worth it. When purchased non-organic, the fruits and veggies listed below can have negative effects on your health.

The Dirty Dozen:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Peaches
  6. Pears
  7. Cherries
  8. Grapes
  9. Celery
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Sweet bell peppers
  12. Potatoes
    + Hot peppers are considered a bonus item on this list.

Additionally, the EWG provides a "Clean Fifteen," list of produce items that are usually relatively low in pesticides and safer to consume. For these fifteen fruits and vegetables, you can save a few dollars and buy non-organic. There’s usually not a significant amount of pesticide residue found on these produce items, making them generally as safe to eat as those which are grown organically. 

The Clean Fifteen: 

  1. Sweet corn
  2. Avocado
  3. Pineapple
  4. Cabbage
  5. Onions
  6. Sweet frozen peas
  7. Papayas
  8. Asparagus
  9. Mangos
  10. Eggplant
  11. Honeydew melon
  12. Kiwi
  13. Cantaloupe
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Broccoli


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