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Organic foods reduce cancer risk?

Updated: Feb 18, 2019


Cancer is the dreaded C word of the millennium. Once it attacks someone in its vicious form, he/she will have to simply succumb to its merciless onslaught, even as doctors and caregivers work tirelessly to contain the damage done and save one’s life if possible. No wonder the flood gates have been opened for anti-cancer drug research across the globe.

Simultaneously frantic efforts are on to eliminate or at least minimize the risk factors for cancer, important among them being the chemicals used in agriculture and food industry in general, especially pesticides which are known to be potentially carcinogenic (cancer-inducing). The organic food industry is a niche area wherein chemicals of all descriptions, including pesticides are done away with and only whatever would naturally grow with Mother Nature’s blessings are allowed to reach your kitchen. But alas, this is an expensive way to live and eat, so most of us end up consuming whatever food is commercially produced and sold but loaded with pesticides et al. And it is often impossible to prove statistically that organic foods are safer in this regard and that is the reason why we have a question mark in the heading of this blog.

Against this backdrop, we now have the prestigious JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) demonstrating statistically that organic foods can indeed reduce the risk of cancer (JAMA Intern Med. October 22, 2018). In a population-based study of 68 946 French adults, a significant reduction in the risk of cancer was observed among high consumers of organic food. For 16 food products, participants reported their consumption frequency of labelled organic foods (never, occasionally, or most of the time). An organic food score was then computed (range, 0-32 points).

The follow-up dates were May 10, 2009, to November 30, 2016. 1340 first incident cancer cases were identified during follow-up, with the most prevalent being 459 breast cancers, 180 prostate cancers, 135 skin cancers, 99 colorectal cancers, 47 non-Hodgkin lymphomas, and 15 other lymphomas. High organic food scores were inversely associated with the overall risk of cancer.

This is a solid study published in a scientific journal of global repute, but it is still not enough for regulatory agencies to authorise this use in the label, so more studies are awaited in the years ahead. The bottom line is that we now do have respectable scientific evidence in favour of organic foods in the prevention of cancer.


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