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High users of organic food 25% less likely to get cancer

People who eat organic food are up to 25% less likely to develop cancer, according to a study of nearly 70,000 volunteers. 

The French researchers who carried out the study have concluded that prompting organic food consumption among the general population could be a “promising preventative strategy against cancer”. 

The researchers, based at Paris University, wanted to investigate concerns that pesticide exposure in food products could be a cause of cancer. While many studies show that organic food contains significantly less pesticide residues than conventional foods, few studies have examined the association of organic food consumption with cancer risk.

So the Paris team set about investigating the association between organic food consumption and the risk of cancer in a large cohort of French adults. The study group’s eating habits were tracked over an eight year period, during which participants completed web-based questionnaires about their diets over three 24-hour periods.

The researchers focused on 16 types of organic products: fruits; vegetables; soy-based products; dairy; meat and fish; eggs; grains and legumes; bread and cereals; flour; vegetable oils and condiments; ready-to-eat meals; coffee and tea; wine; cookies, chocolates and other sweets; other foods; and dietary supplements. They gave participants scores ranging from a low of 0, for no organic food consumption, to 32 for the highest consumption.

The researchers found that higher organic food consumption was associated with a reduction in the risk of overall cancer, with those consuming the largest amounts of organic in their diet 25% less likely to develop cancer than those eating conventional food only. 

Lead researcher, Julia Baudry, said: “Organic foods are less likely to contain pesticide residues than conventional foods, and studies have showed that an organic diet reduces exposure to certain pesticides. In the general population, the primary route of exposure is diet, especially intake of conventionally grown fruits and vegetables.”

While the Paris team say that further studies are needed to confirm their results, they conclude that “promoting organic food consumption in the general population could be a promising preventive strategy against cancer”.

” … promoting organic food consumption in the general population could be a promising preventive strategy against cancer”

Jorge Chabarro, of Harvard University, who was not involved in the research, told The Times that the new study was “incredibly important”, adding that the effect could be much stronger if research isolated the foods that contained the most pesticide residue.

Picture: Expanded organic aisles at French supermarket chain Super U

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About the Author

Jim Manson

Writer & Editor
Jim Manson is editor-in-chief of Diversified Communications UK‘s natural and organic publishing portfolio. He’s written widely on environment and development issues for specialist magazines and national media, including the Financial Times, The Guardian, The Times, and World Bank Urban Age

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4 Responses to High users of organic food 25% less likely to get cancer

  1. David Hedin October 23, 2018 at 11:34 am #

    Hi Jim,

    How did they control for factors like physical activity and other factors known for its health? I suppose many that consume only organic food also lead healthier lifestyles than average.

    • Jim Manson
      Jim Manson October 25, 2018 at 9:53 am #

      Hi David

      The team refer to the fact that the findings were “weighted for known cancer risk including lifestyle and family history”, but also add that participants (who were 78% female) were “more female, well educated, and exhibited healthier behaviors compared with the French general population”, factors which may “may have led to a lower cancer incidence herein than the national estimates”.

      I imagine there would also be the usual limitations expected of studies that rely on self-reporting.

      Julia Baudry told Reuters: “An observational study like this one can’t prove that eating organic foods causes fewer cancers, but the results suggest that an organic-based diet could contribute to reduced cancer risk”.


  2. Muthuraman chockalingam October 23, 2018 at 12:21 pm #


  3. Ben Cowell October 24, 2018 at 9:20 pm #

    Hey Jim. As David.says to make statements like this it will need proper qualification, not just people who eat organic. Say another 70k & not picked at random to make it stack up and yes I’m sure my vegetarian, gluten free diet and daily swim would contribute to my healthy lifestyle and hopefully avoid the Big C but guarantee well I hope so!



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