People who eat more organic foods may be slightly less likely to develop certain cancers, a new French study suggests.
Compared to people who consumed the least amount of organic foods, those who ate the most were 25 percent less likely to develop cancer during the study. In absolute terms, this translated into about a 0.6 percent lower risk of cancer.
Organic foods are produced without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and genetically modified organisms and restrict the use of veterinary medications like antibiotics.
Although previous research has suggested that agricultural chemicals may be linked to certain cancers, it’s uncertain whether organic foods free of these chemicals can help lower the risk of cancer.
About the study
In the current study almost 69,000 adults completed web-based questionnaires about their diets over three 24-hour periods.
Researchers focused on 16 types of organic products: Fruits; vegetables; soy-based products; dairy; meat and fish; eggs; grains and legumes; bread and cereals; flour; vegetable oils and condiments; ready-to-eat meals; coffee and tea; wine; cookies, chocolates and other sweets; other foods; and dietary supplements.
They gave participants scores ranging from a low of 0, for no organic food consumption, to 32 for the highest consumption.
Overall, 4.5 years after the surveys were completed, participants developed 1,340 new cancers. Most common were breast cancers, prostate cancers, skin cancers, colorectal cancers and lymphomas.
Limitations of the findings
This study was observational in nature; it was not a randomized controlled trial that can prove causality. As well, the researchers didn’t account for why people who never ate organic might have made this decision.
Someone who didn’t eat organic foods because of price barriers was considered the same as someone who chose not to eat organic because they didn’t care about it. While these two people may have the same low level of exposure to pesticide residues, they are different in terms of their motivation to eat organic and likely other aspects of their health behaviors, which could ultimately explain the differences in cancer risk noted in this study.”
The findings revealed that people who ate the most organic foods were more likely to be married, have higher income and education levels, consume less red and processed meat and drink less alcohol.
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