The Medical Reasons for choosing Organic vs Non-Organic Foods
The common question I get in clinic is "Why should I spend money on organic foods? What is the evidence? Is it worth it?" This past weekend I went to a great conference in Charleston, SC presented by MUSC, and several of the talks were regarding the Organic vs. Non-Organic, GMO vs. Non-GMO controversies. Here are the highlights presented by Dr. Joel Foreman, MD.
1. Do organic foods have more vitamins and nutrients then non-organic foods?
Generally, studies show a small but not clinically significant increase in nutrients in organic foods. It is very difficult to control for soil, climate, crop conditions, picking time, transit time, etc. and compare the two.
2. Organic Foods Generally CANNOT have Synthetic Herbicides or Pesticides applied.
Based on Medical Studies, The health price we pay for Sunthetic Herbicide and Pesticide Exposure is as follows:
- Farm workers working on non-organic farms, have higher rates of cancer and increased rates of respiratory illnesses such as cough, asthma, COPD, seasonal allergies, etc. (study in 1997 and 2001)
- Increased pesticide exposure in children of farm workers showed an increase in cancer rates, specifically - leukemia, neuroblastoma, Wilms' tumor, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, brain cancer, colorectal cancer, and testicular cancer. (2 extensive literature reviews conducted in 1998 and 2007)
- Organophosphate exposure (Pesticides) measured by residue in children's urine, was shown to be linked to a one to two fold increase in ADHD symptoms for children 8-15yrs old. (study 2010)
- Children exposed prenatally to pesticides and herbicides have lower scores for mental and motor development (study 2007), greater likelihood of behavioral issues (study 2006), decreased birth weight (study 2004), smaller head circumference (study 2004)
- Prenatally exposed kids to pesticides were followed for 7 years and the exams showed an overall decrease in development and increased behavioral issues at 2yrs and at 7 yrs.
- A study in 2006, showed that urine levels of pesticides were dramatically reduced in children who were placed on an Organic Diet for just one week.
Addendum - discussion on Twitter October 21, 2016 - raised several points: Organic Farming leaves the impression that no herbicides or pesticides are used. The fact is organic farmers, based on FDA recommendations, use some "naturally derived" herbicides and pesticides, however these "natural ingredients" have not been tested for illness/carcinogenicity. They generally do not use synthetic products shown to have adverse health outcomes. Unfortunately, some synthetic products are allowed in organic farming here is the link: FDA regulations on organic farming They also use mechanical ways to rid the crops of bugs and weeds, such as traps, beneficial bugs, or weeding by hand.
Fruits & veggies are a major contributor of pesticide exposure
3. Organic foods CANNOT be exposed to Antibiotics or Hormones.
Based on Medical Studies, use of Antibiotics and Hormones in Animals carries a sigficant risk to the general population as follows:
- 4x more antibiotics are used in animals then humans
- Hormones and antibiotics helps animals grow faster on diets that are poor and in conditions that are generally horrible.
- Due to hormone exposure, cow utters get infected more often, thus requiring more antibiotics.
- Due to gross growing conditions, the animals get sick more often, necessitating in antibiotic use.
- Hormone and Antibiotic use in animals is banned in All European nations, Australia, New Zeland, and Japan.
Most experts agree that antibiotic use in animals is the major contributor of antibiotic resistant pathogens in humans. This contributes to higher rates of infections in humans.
Infections from Antibiotic Treated Meat Sources include:
Pneumonia, Ear Infections, Diarrhea, Vomiting, Skin Infections, Urinary Tract Infections, and MRSA infections. Many studies indicate that organic meats are safer and healthier then conventionally grown and processed meats. (multiple studies 2012, 2013)
4. Organic Chicken CANNOT be exposed to Arsenic.
Arsenic has many consequences to human health.
- Arsenic is in 70% of non-organic chicken feed and is used as a growth promoter
- Chicken waste contains 3/4 of the arsenic dose the chicken ate, then 90% of chicken waste is used as crop fertilizer.
- The chicken feed and the arsenic fertilized crops are fed to cows. Chicken poop is a protein source for cattle.
- Also, arsenic used as fertilizer ends up in soil which ends up in the water we drink
- Arsenic is banned in All the European Countries.
Arsenic, even at low exposures is linked to Cancer, Neural Tube Defects, Developmental and Behavioral Issues, Diabetes, and Heart Disease
5. Organic Foods CANNOT have or be Genetically Modified Crops (GMO).
Genetically Modified Crops are a Major Health Hazard to Human Health because of the implications of Herbicides and Pesticides.
- In the past 20 years, GMO Crops have increased dramatically. Currently, 80% or row crops in the US are GMO.
- The science behind GMO is driven by money. GMO crops are made to be resistant to weed killer and resistant to pest killers. So when farmers treat the crops for pests and weeds with lots of chemicals, the plant can survive. The easier it is to grow crops, the more money the farmer makes.
- Over time, as GMO crops have become more prevalent, and disease and weeds have also become resistant to weed and pesticide killer. This has led to a marked and dramatic increase in herbicide and pesticide use on the plants. Guess who sponsors and produces most of the GMO seeds/crops??? The weed and pesticide killer company - Monsanto, the maker of Roundup.
- Majority of GMO crops are corn, cotton, and soybeans
- The more herbicides/pesticides used on crops, the more they leach into the water source that we drink.
- (studies 2012, 2014, 2015)
6. Why should we change to Organic Products?
- Organic produce contains fewer pesticide residue then conventional produce. Levels of pesticides from exposure to conventional produce equals that as seen in farm workers on non-organic farms. (see list of illnesses above)
- 80% of the pesticide/herbicide exposure to humans comes from produce (fruits and veggies)
- Organic meats prohibit the use of hormones and non-therapeutic use of antibiotics. This decreases the exposure of humans to antibiotic resistant bacteria, which in turn results in less sicknesses and infections.
- Despite many studies, tAhere is no good method to wash pesticide residue off fruits and veggies.
- Natural does not equal or mean organic. There are no inspection standards for this
- Pesticide free is only addressing the pesticide issue and you gave to take this on faith. There are no inspection standards for this
- Organic farms are regularly inspected and have to pass numerous tests to be certified and to keep their certification.
7. But the cost of Organic Products is so high, not many people can afford these?
- Choose organic meats, dairy, eggs.
- Choose organic produce that is on the Dirty Dozen list, then move to the others. Choosing just organic produce on the Dirty Dozen list can reduce pesticide exposure up to 90%.
- (studies 2002, 2006)
- Organic meats, dairy, eggs, and produce can be found more and more at large whole sale warhorses such as Costco. Thrive Market, an online discount retailer may be expanding to include produce.
- Shopping at farmers market for items that are in season will reduce costs.
- Join a co-op
- Stop buying junk such as Soda, Garode, Juice, and Powerade and use the savings from these products to buy organic. Remember water is free.
- Replace snacks Doritos, Cheetos, Cookies etc with healthier alternatives.
- Frozen fruits and veggies are cheaper then fresh ones. Once you cut up fresh organic fruits and veggies for your meals, freeze the rest to use at a later time. You can freeze, dehydrate, or can various in season produce for later use.
8. In summary, is it worth it?
Lets start looking at the benefit of investing now in good food to prevent disease later on. If you add up the costs for medical visits, antibiotics, other medicines, labs, and imaging for illnesses such as ADHD, Allergies, Asthma, Diabetes, Cancer, Heart Disease and then compare these costs to the cost of food, you will have your answer. We need to look long term at the benefits to us and our children, and start making some changes. In Good Health, Ana-Maria Temple MD PS - dying to read the studies mentioned above? Send me a comment and I will send you the link to the referenced paper.
*** Addendum - requests were made for references Oct 21, 2016 - (yay! this means someone is reading this article) - Stay tuned it will take me 2 weeks to link all articles mentioned since my paper work is in the US, and I am now living in New Zealand. Thanks for your patience.