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Still Skeptical About Organics? Hang on to Your Hat!

Research conducted in France by Nutrinet Santé, the respected voice for nutrition and health, has reported encouraging decreases for cancer risk in general (25%), breast cancer (34%) and lymphoma (76%) associated with an organic diet. The study involved 70,000 people whose diet consisted primarily of organic products and were followed for 7 years spanning from 2009 to 2016. It must be noted that these results did not change, even when considering various risk factors that may impact this relationship (sociodemographic factors, diet, lifestyle, family history, etc.).

This study was published recently in the renowned British journal The Lancet. It thrusts this thorny issue back on today’s agenda: Is eating organic beneficial to our health? Clearly, we are told to date, the available epidemiological data does not demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that organic food protects against diseases, including cancer. A causal link has indeed been proven on the incidence of diseases (particularly prostate cancer, lymphoma, and Parkinson’s disease) among conventional farmers handling pesticides and synthetic materials, but the magnitude of the risk to the population consuming conventional food remains a priority yet to be established.

Researchers from the Centre of Research in Epidemiology and Statistics Sorbonne Paris Cité issued two main hypotheses to explain the results of this study: The more frequent and higher doses of synthetic pesticide residues in conventional food as well as potentially higher levels of certain micronutrients in organic food (antioxidants, carotenoids, polyphenols, vitamin C, or a more beneficial fatty acid profile) likely account for these results.

So yes, more research in other contexts must be conducted to consolidate the understanding of the benefits of organic food; and no, we should not be content with a simple and vague convenient idea claiming that natural is better without sufficient scientific explanation. After all, as the renowned philosopher Immanuel Kant said: “Intuition, without concepts, can’t yield knowledge.”

However, we must remain mindful regarding the potentially harmful effects of food chemistry on our health and vitality. The Haut Conseil de la santé publique (High Council of Public Health) in France would not ask for production methods to decrease pesticide exposure for no reason…

We discuss health here, but that’s not to mention the ethical issues (I’m thinking, for example, about the mass suicides of farmers who are paralyzed by Monsanto patents in India) and environmental issues (dramatic impoverishment of the soil and food, bee colony collapse syndrome, etc.) for intensive agricultural purposes.

Whenever possible, therefore, choose mainly local, seasonal, colourful, and organic food to improve your health, and certainly to help the planet.

Reference

Baudry, J., et al. “The frequency of organic food consumption is inversely associated with cancer risk: Results from the NutriNet-Santé prospective Cohort.” JAMA Internal Medicine. October 22, 2018. [Epub ahead of print]