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Can organic foods protect against cancer?

05.2019
summarised by author Mag. rer. nat. Susanne Seufer-Wasserthal

A study on the correlation between organic food and cancer risk attracted widespread attention in October 2018. The data for this epidemiological study was collected in connection with the French NutriNet-Santé study.
Study design: For data collection, the participants were asked to fill in an online questionnaire about themselves and their eating habits. Participants had to rate how often they consume certain organic foods – “never”, “sometimes”, “usually”. The foods were categorised into 16 food groups, e.g. fruit, vegetables, meat, ready meals and sweets. Based on the participants’ answers, the scientists determined each person’s “Food Score”. The more organic food was consumed, the higher the score. Important information on the participants’ health, hospitalisations, or the use of any medication was also collected.

Results: None of the 68,946 participants of the study (mean age 44.2 years) had been diagnosed with cancer at the beginning of the study. During the observation period of 4.5 years, 1,340 participants were diagnosed with cancer. There was a significantly lower number of cancer diagnoses in the group which consumed the highest amounts of organic products. This correlation was particularly noticeable with postmenopausal breast cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The suspected reason, according to the authors, is that fewer pesticides from foods are ingested.  Consuming organic foods could therefore be a “promising preventive strategy” in the fight against cancer.
However, further studies, particularly intervention studies, are necessary to confirm the recent results.

Reference:
Julia Baudry, Karen E. Assmann, Mathilde Touvier, et al. Association of frequency of organic food consumption with cancer risk findings from the NutriNet-Santé Prospective Cohort Study.
JAMA Intern Med. Published online October 2018.