Advocates have long praised organic food for its great taste, high cultivation standards, and positive effect on environmental and human health. Among these benefits is the fact that organic foods are grown without the use of certain pesticides. These man-made chemicals are used to prevent, destroy, and repel pests in conventional agriculture. While they protect crops from insects and other pests, studies show that pesticides and insecticides disrupt the endocrine system, disturb reproductive health harm, and increase the risk of cancer.
Although organic foods are not necessarily produced without any pesticides, organic farmers use significantly less of these chemicals. A growing body of evidence suggests that sticking to an organic diet can significantly lower the level of pesticides found in the bloodstream. A study conducted in 2006 and published in the October 2015 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives, looked at 20 children living in Oakland, California and 20 in an agricultural community located 100 miles away called Salinas. All 40 children ate a conventional diet for four days, an organic diet for seven days, and the conventional diet for the last five days.
Researchers collected urine from the children daily and found that 72 percent of the samples contained evidence of pesticides. Out of six different pesticides detected, two of those chemicals decreased by nearly 50 percent when the children were on the organic diet. One common herbicide that they identified fell by 25 percent. Levels were generally higher in the children from the agricultural community than in the Oakland children, suggesting that the Salinas children had greater exposure to chemicals from nearby farms. “There’s evidence that diet is one route of exposure to pesticides, and you can reduce your exposure by choosing organic food,” Asa Bradman, the study’s lead author and the associate director of the Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health at the University of California, Berkeley told the New York Times.
A number of other studies, including one published in the May 2015 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives, also report decreased pesticide levels in consumers of organic food. The 2015 study assessed long-term dietary exposure to 14 different pesticides among 4,466 participants in a multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis. Urinary diakyl phosphate metabolites (DAP) are used to estimate human exposure to certain pesticides. The researchers found that increased pesticide exposure was associated with higher concentrations of DAP. Additionally, DAP concentrations were substantially lower in those who more reported more frequent consumption of organic produce.
The growing body of evidence suggests that organic food is protective against a number of harmful pesticides. That being said, buying organic is more expensive than choosing conventional fruits and vegetables. If you are concerned about your pesticide exposure but don’t want to break the bank, take a look at the “dirty dozen.” This list features the most pesticide-ridden produce. Buy the organic versions of those 12 fruits and vegetables, and give your wallet a break by sticking to conventional versions of all others.
The accompanying slideshow is provided by Daily Meal special contributor Victoria Barton.