Most Wellness Warriors have a basic understanding of why we eat organic food. After all it’s better for the environment, not to mention more nutritious, right? But while the nutritional benefits of organic munching seem like a no brainer, it might surprise some to know that there has been very little research into health benefits of pesticide-free food.
A recent study published in Environmental Health Perspectives is one of the largest most extensive of its kind. The research calculated pesticide intake, specifically organophosphates (OPs), which happens to be one of the most popular types of insecticides used in the United States.
As the authors themselves put:
A reliable means of estimating long-term dietary exposure to individual OPs is needed to assess the potential relationship with adverse health effects.”
Dietary data from six U.S. cities formed the basis: they then assessed the long-term dietary exposures to OP pesticides among 4,466 multi-ethnic participants.
It’s important to note here that OP’s are used on an abundance of crops including popular produce such as green beans, grapes, lettuce, tomatoes, oranges, pears, melons and spinach. While washing these fruits and vegetables can reduce the amount of OP residue, it does not get rid of it altogether.
This type of pesticide has been linked to all kinds of health issues. As detailed in a recent CivilEats article,
Organophosphates have been shown to be toxic to the nervous system in people who are exposed to them directly. Breathing OPs can cause immediate acute adverse effects (headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, difficulty breathing). Long-term exposure can cause a range of neurological effects including memory loss, anxiety, and depression. Prenatal and childhood exposure has been shown to harm developing brains and result in lowered IQ and other cognitive problems.”
Still, such negative health effects have been found in studies focusing mainly on farm workers exposed to the pesticides in the fields. What wasn’t known until now was how such problems might also be linked to the food we eat.
Cynthia Curl, an assistant professor in Boise State University’s School of Allied Health Sciences, was the lead author on this study. She and her co-researchers attached their study to an ongoing research project known as the MESA Air Project that began in 2010. The participants were already answering questions about their diet at multiple time points, Curl explains. Curl’s study simply added on specific questions about organic food intake.
They then tested the urine of the 4,500 participants comparing the results from a subset of 720 people to the USDA’s measurements of pesticide residues on the produce the participants reported consuming.
What they found was that the people who ate non-organic produce had a much higher concentration (up to twice as much, in fact) of OP metabolites in their systems.
In other words buying organic does in fact drastically decrease one’s exposure to this particular pesticide and the adverse health problems that come along with it. Just a little food for thought, Wellness Warrior community. It looks like we’ve had it right all along. Go organic! Your health really does depend on it!
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