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Pesticides and Organic Foods

Question of the month: Are you ready to buy more organic foods?

Man carrying box of produce with pesticides

The synthetic chemical pesticides that are sprayed on conventionally grown foods like fruits and vegetables may pose a health risk with consistent exposure over time. And now a watershed study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutritionhas shed light on just how much our grocery choices can impact our exposure to these agricultural chemicals.

In a randomized trial over 2 weeks, 27 healthy adults were assigned to consume a Mediterranean-inspired diet made entirely from organic foods or a Mediterranean diet containing exclusively nonorganic conventional foods. Both groups consumed a typical Western diet made from conventional foods before and after the 14-day intervention period.

The researchers wanted to zero in on the impact that organic versus conventional had on urinary pesticide residue excretion. They discovered that the concentration of pesticide residues in the urine was 91% lower in participants who were eating organic than in those who ate conventional foods.

Interestingly, a conventional Western diet resulted in less pesticide exertion than a conventional Mediterranean diet, perhaps because the latter meant a greater intake of whole fruits and vegetables (which could contain higher amounts of pesticide residues). While we still don’t know what health ramifications may arise from such exposure to chemical pesticides, this might be a big reason to celebrate organic food as a healthy upgrade, if budgets allow.

Are you currently buying organic foods to limit synthetic chemical exposure? Or would these results make you consider making organic items a bigger part of your diet? Do you believe the risk associated with these chemicals is overblown? Do you find organic foods are too expensive to make them a viable choice for most people? Send your answers to Sandy Todd Webster at [email protected]

See also: Organic Food Oversite



Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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