Does an Organic Diet Lower the Risk of Cancer?

by Chris Centeno, MD /

I shop at Whole Foods and live in one of the natural-foods capitals of Planet Earth, Boulder, Colorado. The idea that eating organic is healthier for you is just accepted as fact, but do we really know that’s true? This morning I’ll review a new study that weighs in on the idea.

The Benefits of an Organic Diet

There are many out there who simply think buying organic is just all hype, a passing trend, just a ploy by some companies to get us to dig deeper into our pockets. Unfortunately, however, the massive scale of industrial and factory-based farming today truly has altered the quality of our foods, and as food quality decreases, disease, such as cancer, seems to increase. Even if we wanted to try to chalk it up to coincidence, many studies tell us otherwise.

Organic meat and milk, for example, has been found to have benefits that far exceed conventionally produced meat and milk. Organic meat and milk has 50% more omega-3 and 39% more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Does this really matter? Maybe; CLA is associated with lowering inflammation and high blood pressure, reducing tumors, and lowering heart disease risks among many others. Organic meat and milk is also richer in antioxidants, such as carotenoids and vitamin E, which can protect our cells from free radicals, which are associated with cancer, heart disease, and more.

Even livestock that are fed genetically engineered food (something that is not allowed under “USDA ORGANIC” labeling), such as the pigs I covered at this link, are much sicker animals than their counterparts, and that may be passed on to us when we consume nonorganic pork products.

Another big benefit to an organic diet is that you aren’t consuming foods doused in Roundup and other horrible chemicals. Roundup, for example has been linked to killing off the friendly bacteria in our gut that helps us digest gluten, making it possible that the pesticides in our foods could have something to do with the epidemic of gluten intolerance in the past few decades.

Now, a new study just investigated if there was a connection between an organic diet and lower cancer risks. Let’s take a look.

Is Your Expensive Organic Diet Really Paying Off by Lowering Your Cancer Risk?

While we know the primary purpose of an organic diet is the assurance that minimal to no pesticides have been in contact with our food during farming, is this lower chemical consumption actually translating to healthier people by minimizing disease, such as cancer? One new study set out to determine this as it investigated whether or not a diet of organic foods can actually be linked to a lower risk of cancer.

Nearly 69,000 participants were each given an organic food score based on their reporting of the frequency (ranging from never to most of the time) of organic food consumption. These participants were followed for more than seven years, during which 1,340 were diagnosed with some form of cancer. The results? Analyzing cancer prevalence against the frequency of organic food consumption, researchers found that cancer diagnoses were higher in those who never ate organic food and significantly lower in those who frequently ate organic food.

The study was limited, and it wasn’t within the scope of this study to determine why those who follow an organic diet are less likely to develop cancer (though the milk and meat study I discussed above covered some possibilities). However, it’s certainly promising to learn that for those of us who are being more selective in our food choices and constantly pushing our grocery budgets to the limit to buy organic, it really may be paying off.

The upshot? So I think I’ll keep shopping at Whole Foods and looking for those organic labels when I’m not. While other studies may be published in the future that draw other conclusions, it’s certainly encouraging right now to see that spending more here may be well worth it in the long run.

Category: Diet/Nutrition

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4 thoughts on “Does an Organic Diet Lower the Risk of Cancer?

  1. Frank Romeo

    GMO and organic are different discriminators. All our food is GMO, from from the first double DNA wheat and rye to the cows we eat. Organic foods of value are low pesticide use which is good to a point. Americans are rich and can afford it. But the world needs intensive farms to feed everyone.

  2. Curt Clemenson

    Intensive food production need not be intensively treated with chemicals. Systems such as permaculture can quite easily feed the global population. We may have to cut back on grain fed beef but that to will be healthier in the long run.

  3. shift-admin

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  4. Brad Franklin

    Not a huge fan of large uncontrolled studies that rely purely on correlation like this one. The simple fact is organic food consumption correlates with many other high socioeconomic lifestyle factors that also affect cancer diagnostic rates.

    A better argument for consuming organic food is to look at the actual production processes and supply chain for the foods you are concerned about. This ain’t rocket science and if there is a lot of pesticide and poor soil quality and fertilizer as opposed to compost and manure used then you can be certain that you’re getting a higher dose of toxins in a lower dose of high-density nutrition.

    And the kicker is that we actually are healthier with lower calorie diets for most Americans. So if we spend less on our food but buy high-quality food especially for the dirty dozen vegetables look it up…. and certainly from meats which are profoundly affected by the quality of their living conditions and their diet… we can be quite confident without any statistics at all that we are going to live healthier lives free or from cancer and many many other chronic diseases.

    and without looking at a single study we can be quite certain that are stem cells will be much healthier and more numerous. Again this isn’t rocket science.

    the problem with using these large uncontrolled studies is they can be used for so many other purposes that are less than honest and consumers simply get confused and tired of seeing contradictory studies. Let’s focus on fundamental and common-sense aspects and highlight the facts of how our food is produced!.

Chris Centeno, MD

Regenexx Founder

Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications.
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