Does organic food really cut cancer risks?

A new study suggests organic foods may reduce the risk of cancer – so we asked the experts to weigh in.

Australia’s organic food market is worth about $2.4 billion, and growing each year.

It seems more of us are buying organic fruits, vegetables, nuts, meats, eggs and poultry.

And the decision to buy organic is usually because we see it as a healthy option, according to not-for-profit industry body Australian Organic.

Is organic better for us and can it help prevent disease?

A new study of nearly 69,000 people in France found a “significant reduction” in the risk of cancer among people who ate organic food “most of the time”.

The researchers say if further studies confirm their findings, encouraging people to eat more organic foods may be one strategy to try to reduce the number of cancer diagnoses every year.

The study asked people about their intake of organic foods and then followed them for five years to monitor how many were diagnosed with cancer during that time.

The findings suggest that eating plenty of organic foods reduces the risk of cancer by 25 per cent, compared with people who never or only occasionally eat organic foods.

More research on organic food benefits needed

But before we all rush to the organic aisle of the supermarket, health experts say more in-depth studies are needed.

One possible explanation for the benefits of eating organic foods is that they are believed to contain lower levels of pesticides.

Other experts say it may be that the people in the study who ate higher levels of organic foods had a generally healthier lifestyle, which lowered their cancer risk.

organic food

Eat more fruit and veg – organic or not

Steve Pratt, nutrition and physical activity manager at Cancer Council Western Australia, says while organic foods are healthy, most Australians would help lower their risk of cancer and of other serious diseases simply by eating more fruits and vegetables generally – organic or not.

He adds that while there are concerns around pesticides, there is no substantial evidence to show an increased risk of cancer through eating non-organic fresh produce.

“Any marginal benefit you get from eating organic food is swamped for most of the population by the benefits of simply eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains,” says Steve.

“Eating more of these foods is the important thing – organic or not.”

Recent research from CSIRO found four in five adults don’t have enough fruits and vegetables.

About 51 per cent of us don’t have enough fruit and 66 per cent of Australians don’t have enough veggies.

“One simple way to boost your intake is to eat three different types of vegetables with your main evening meal,” says Professor Manny Noakes, CSIRO research director and co-author of the CSIRO total wellbeing diet.

“Increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables we eat is one of the simplest ways Australians can improve their health and wellbeing today as well as combat the growing rates of obesity and lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and a third of all cancers.”

Written by Sarah Marinos