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Eating More Organic Food Can Really Reduce the Risk of Cancer?

Eating More Organic Food Can Really Reduce the Risk of Cancer? Inquiry

A recently published study has led many consumers to wonder whether it is worth spending a lot of money to buy organic foods without pesticides. In a study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers found that compared to people intake general food, those who choose organic food for more than 4.5 years will have a slightly lower risk of developing cancer, especially lymphoma and postmenopausal breast cancer.


Although there is a correlation between the intake of organic food and the low incidence of cancer, this does not necessarily mean that the two are interrelated. People who choose organic food may be healthier, richer, and the education degree may be higher, and these are also known factors that affect the risk of cancer in the population; the researchers point out that this study, in which organic food is effective, is the first analysis of the association between the intake of organic food and the risk of cancer in individuals. Researchers need to conduct additional studies to confirm the results of this study.


Previous studies have found that large intakes of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, less processed foods and red meat can significantly reduce the risk of cancer in individuals; therefore, if you do not want to buy organic food or cannot afford it, try to buy regular planted foods, especially fruits and vegetables.



How was the research conducted?


In this study, the researchers conducted a study of approximately 70,000 non-cancer volunteers. At the beginning of the study, the researchers evaluated the dietary status of each participant according to the French Nutrition Guidelines for a period of 12 weeks. Investigators recorded food and beverage intakes of participants. Two months after the study began, participants were asked to provide specific information on the 16 types of organic-labeled food they consumed, including fruits, vegetables, beans, dairy, meat, and fish, etc.


Participants were then given an “Organic Food Score” and if they selected organic foods in all 16 categories, they would receive a maximum of 32 points, and the researchers assessed the participants’ health status each year and the median monitored time is 4.5 years, and when any cancer case occurs, the patient’s information is individually confirmed by the hospital or treating doctor.


What did the researchers discover?


Participants’ organic food scores ranged from 0.7 to 19.4 points, which could be used to make this component equal quartiles. The researchers found that participants who scored the highest organic food scores had a 25% lower overall risk of developing cancer. Among many cancers, organic foods are most associated with lower risk of breast cancer (especially postmenopausal women) and lymphoma (especially non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma); The reduced risk of prostate or colorectal cancer and organic food does not seem to be relevant, although it is unlikely that any change will occur in a relatively short period of time.



What do we need to consider?


Previous studies have shown that people who choose organic food tend to have higher incomes, higher levels of education, and a healthier diet, so researchers have adjusted these factors. At the same time, the researchers also adjusted other factors that influence the results of the study, including age, gender, time of participation in the study, marital status, physical activity, smoking status, drinking status, family cancer history, BMI, height, energy intake, dietary fiber intake, red meat and processed meat intake.


For women (78% of the study), the researchers also adjusted the number of their children, the use of oral contraceptives, postmenopausal status, and postmenopausal hormone therapy. Although researchers try to adjust for confounding factors that affect research results, when so many studies are related to people who eat more organic foods, it is difficult for researchers to determine the validity of these findings.


Participants with higher organic food scores were also healthier in terms of diet, such as higher intake levels of fruits and vegetables, less red meat and processed meat, and a lower level of obesity. As the researchers hypothesized, pesticides in some traditional products seem to be associated with certain cancers, or those who choose organic rather than traditional foods may have a better diet and a healthier lifestyle. This study did not tell us the answer.


Confirmed by future research


The study was the first of its kind in the field, and the only similar study was conducted in the UK in 2014, when researchers asked whether women had never, usually or always ingested organic food; It shows that women who usually or always consume organic foods have a 21% lower risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and individuals who consume organic food appear to have a slightly increased risk of breast cancer (participants also consume more alcohol at the same time, and fewer children and these factors increase their risk of breast cancer).


In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer listed some pesticides as possible carcinogens, which means that there is only limited evidence that there is a link between human use of pesticides and cancer. Experimental animal studies have yielded sufficient results to clarify the link between pesticides and cancer. There is currently evidence that individuals with more organic foods have lower levels of pesticide residues in their urine, and studies have shown that self-reported organic food intake can be used to predict the metabolites level of certain pesticides in the urine. But scientists still need a lot of research to confirm this.


The study in France may tell us more about the relationship between the intake of multiple organic foods and the level of specific pesticide residues in the urine of participants, and the future study of the relationship may help to effectively monitor the incidence of cancer in similar populations. Half of the participants will receive a certain amount of organic food, while the remaining half will use traditional agriculture to grow the same amount of food. Later researchers will also use a more in-depth study to assess the relationship between the level of pesticide residues in the urine of participants and their subsequent cancer incidence.






Julia Baudry, PhD1; Karen E. Assmann, PhD1; Mathilde Touvier, PhD1; et al Association of Frequency of Organic Food Consumption With Cancer Risk—Findings From the nutrient-Santé Prospective Cohort Study. JAMA Intern Med. Published online October 22, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.4357

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Food-based dietary guidelines – France

Baudry J, Méjean C, Péneau S, et al. Health and dietary traits of organic food consumers: results from the NutriNet-Santé study. Br J Nutr. 2015 Dec 28;114(12):2064-73. doi: 10.1017/S0007114515003761

K E Bradbury, A Balkwill, E A Spencer, et al. Organic food consumption and the incidence of cancer in a large prospective study of women in the United Kingdom. Br J Cancer. 2014 Apr 29; 110(9): 2321–2326. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2014.148

IARC Monographs Volume 112: Evaluation of five organophosphate insecticides and herbicides

Asa Bradman, Lesliam Quirós-Alcalá, Rosemary Castorina, et al. Effect of Organic Diet Intervention on Pesticide Exposures in Young Children Living in Low-Income Urban and Agricultural Communities. Environ Health Perspect. 2015 Oct; 123(10): 1086–1093. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1408660

Cynthia L. Cur, Shirley A.A. Beresford, Richard A. Fenske, et al. Estimating Pesticide Exposure from Dietary Intake and Organic Food Choices: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Environ Health Perspect. 2015 May; 123(5): 475–483. doi:10.1289/ehp.1408197

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