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Eating organic food reduces cancer risk by 25%, see study

The French study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine shows us that eating organic food reduces the risk of cancer by 25%.

The French research team led by the Institute for Agronomic Research (INRA) and the National Institute of Health and Medical Research has observed this benefit in regular consumers of organic food products, from organic farming, compared to people who take them to a lesser extent.

This research, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, concludes that the consumption of organic products reduces the risk of cancer by 25%.

“During seven years of follow-up (2009-2016), 1,340 new cases of cancer were recorded, according to medical documents. A 25% reduction in the risk of cancer has been observed in “regular” consumers of organic food, especially pronounced in the case of breast cancer and lymphomas,” says INRA.

The study was conducted with 68,956 individuals, 78% women and with an average age of 44 years, and the frequency of consumption of 16 food groups was evaluated, considering sociodemographic factors. Although individual characteristics, such as lifestyle or family history, may influence the relationship between organic best-before consumption and cancer, they did not alter the results.

The researchers suggest several hypotheses to explain the conclusions, such as a greater presence of pesticide residues in conventional agriculture or higher levels of beneficial micronutrients in organic foods (antioxidants, carotenoids, polyphenols, vitamin C or fatty acids).

While INRA stresses the need to confirm the findings with additional research in different populations, it encourages institutions and consumers to favor foods grown in a way that reduces pesticide exposure in fruits, legumes, and cereals.

Experts propose two possible explanations for the observed decrease in risk. The first hypothesis suggests that in conventional agriculture there is a greater trace of pesticides in food, which can enter our body. The second hypothesis focuses on the high presence of beneficial micronutrients, such as antioxidants, carotenoids, polyphenols, vitamin C, and healthier fatty acids in organic foods. Although J.M. Mulet considers the latter imperceptible, the authors of the study warn of the need for “further research in other study populations with different contexts”.

In the middle, a scientific study led by Axel Mie, a professor at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, and published in the journal Environmental Health in October 2017, supports the existence of variations in nutritional value, although they are considered insignificant, as Mulet argues. Specifically, organically produced foods show “moderately higher contents of phenolic compounds,” which are beneficial to health. In addition, the possibility of a lower cadmium content in organic cereal crops, an element with toxic effects according to the World Health Organization (WHO), is raised.

In addition, the authors of the study highlight that the reduced use of antibiotics in the organic industry could contribute to curbing the generation of resistant bacteria. This aspect is of great relevance at a global level, as it is estimated that more than 33,000 Europeans die annually due to infections caused by antibiotic-resistant pathogens, according to research by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

In addition, organic foods have health benefits, and they are also an effective choice to combat climate change. The Spanish Society of Ecological Agriculture-Agroecology (SEAE), in its study ‘Agroecological practices for adaptation to climate change’, highlights that the artificialisation of production systems and the excessive use of chemical products contribute to the increase in greenhouse gases. According to journalist Brenda Chavez, author of the book ‘ Your Consumption Can Change the World’ , industrial agriculture implies a greater consumption of energy and water, in addition to polluting rivers and air, favoring large companies and affecting local communities.

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