Review finds organic food consumption has measurable benefits on human health

woman in kitchen with plate of foodConsumption of organic foods continues to increase around the globe, and many choose organic for its health benefits. A recent review published in the journal Nutrients shows that increased organic food consumption is associated with fewer incidences of infertility, birth defects, pre-eclampsia, allergies, middle ear infections in children, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and metabolic syndrome, which increases a person’s risk for heart disease and stroke. This systematic review includes 35 observational and clinical trial studies, and is arguably the most comprehensive study to date to assess health outcomes of eating an organic-based diet. The observational studies compare health from populations who regularly consume organic food versus those who regularly consume conventional food. Analysis of these combined studies found significant correlations with increased health and organic diets. Specifically, those who ate more organic food had increased fertility, fetal health, reduced inflammation, and lower risk of major illnesses like cancer, heart disease and stroke. The clinical trials all involve short-term food substitutions ranging from one organic ingredient to an entire diet substitution. Most of the studies lasted only two weeks, and major health outcomes were not markedly different. The authors suggest that to better detect the effects of organic food consumption on long-term health outcomes, future clinical studies should run whole-diet interventions for longer periods of time. While the analysis of clinical studies didn’t reveal direct impacts of organic diets on health outcomes, it did find substantial reductions in pesticide exposure during the organic diet phase. The authors state that consumption of pesticides is not considered unsafe as long as the individual pesticide concentrations remain lower than limits imposed by regulatory agencies like FDA. However, current pesticide approval processes do not require safety testing for pesticide mixtures. Health risks of long-term low-level exposure to pesticides is controversial, but more research is needed that measures the impacts of chemical exposure on human health.