Are organic foods healthier?
Organic foods contain higher levels of vitamins and
minerals as well as cancer-fighting antioxidants. They don't contain
food additives which can cause health problems. They do not contain
pesticides or GMO's (Genetically Modified Organisms) and because the
animals are treated humanely, the need for antibiotics and drugs in
farms are reduced greatly. The environment also benefits by reducing
the incidence of pesticide runoff and ground water pollution. As a
result, wildlife benefits as well. Organic food also tastes better.
Source: Sofia M. Pico, LMT, RM, Walter J. Crinnion N.D.
ARE ORGANIC FOODS REALLY HEALTHIER FOR YOU? Walter
J. Crinnion N.D. Published in Organic Gardening Almanac, 1995;
The more I work with chronically ill people, the bigger my
organic garden gets. As a naturopathic physician I deal with a lot
of chronically ill people. Many of them have been through the
conventional medical system with no success, so they show up at my
doorstep. One day Steve showed up. Over six feet tall and 200
pounds, he dwarfed me, and was quick to mention that my hair was
thinning. He was always trying to be helpful. He came to me after
numerous doctors were unable to help. By the time he arrived he was
sure that he was dying. His long list of symptoms, coupled with his
natural tendency to do his best to get your goat had no doubt caused
any practitioners to give up on him.
Routine blood tests failed to show the cause of his problems,
although they did show some irregularities. The really interesting
finding came when we checked his blood for pesticides.
We tested for eighteen of the more common pesticides and found
that he had nine of them running around in his blood. Knowing that
there are many more than eighteen chemicals in our environment did
not make me feel any better. If he had 50% of the chemicals that we
tested for, how many did he have that we didn't test for?
Unfortunately, out of the 70,000 chemicals in daily use in this
country, only about 250 can be tested for in humans. This obviously
makes it very difficult to find out what is causing a health problem
if the culprit is one of the remaining 69,750.
After finding what I thought to be the source of Steve's problems
I had to ask: Where did he get such a high level of toxins? One of
the toxins he had in his serum was DDT. This chemical pesticide was
banned in 1972 as a direct result of Rachel Carson's book Silent
Spring. After being in the body for 6 months, DDT breaks down to
DDE. Since we found both DDE and DDT in him, this meant that Steve
had gotten DDT with the past year. But how?
While DDT is banned for use in this country it is still
manufactured here, and then it is shipped to other countries for use
in agriculture and mosquito control. DDT makes its way back into
this country on the food raised in those countries, or in the
livestock that was raised on contaminated feed.
Steve was a traveling salesman in the Pacific Northwest. His
territory included Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Idaho, and Montana.
He ate out at restaurants a lot while he was traveling. Presumably,
that is where he was slowly poisoned. After seeing Steve, my
backyard organic garden got a little bit bigger.
There are numerous benefits to both eating organic foods, and to
organic gardening. I personally believe that a huge benefit comes
from a renewed relationship with nature. It starts with an "I won't
poison you, you won't poison me" attitude, and ends with "I'll
nurture and respect you, you nurture and respect me." Doing your own
organic gardening makes this a personal commitment. Gardening is
just plain good for the soul. One of my patients told me that they
refer to their time spent in the garden a "going to see my
therapist." There is nothing quite like getting your hands in the
soil for really good "grounding".
In addition to the mental and emotional benefits of growing and
eating organic food, there are also the physical benefits. These
physical benefits can be boiled down to nutrients present in organic
foods that are not in commercial foods and toxins not in organic
foods that are present in commercial foods. A recent article in the
Journal of Applied Nutrition gave credence to the notion that
organic foods have higher nutrient levels that non-organic food. In
this study the mineral content of organic apples, pear, potatoes,
wheat, and sweet corn were compared to commercial varieties. Overall
the organic foods showed much higher levels of nutrient minerals and
much lower levels of heavy metals.
Here are a few of the nutrients that were found in higher levels
in the organic foods:
* Chromium is a micronutrient that is low in Western diets. Its
deficiency is associated with the onset of adult diabetes and
atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Chromium was found to
be higher in organic foods by an average of 78%.
* Selenium is one of the antioxidant nutrients that protects us
from damage by environmental chemicals. It is protective against
cancers and heart disease. It was found to be an average of 390%
higher in organic foods.
* Calcium, needed for strong bones, averaged 63% higher in
* Boron, which has been shown to help prevent osteoporosis (along
with calcium), averaged 70% more.
* Lithium, which is used to treat certain types of depression,
was 188% higher.
* Magnesium, which reduces mortality from heart attacks, keeps
muscles from spasming, and eases the symptoms of PMS, averaged 138%
In short, many of the minerals that I most often prescribe to my
patients are found in much higher levels in organic foods.
Other studies have looked at vitamin levels of food plants
treated with certain pesticides. They showed that application of
some pesticides would significantly lower the vitamin levels in the
plants they were applied to. This is different than the notion that
plants raised with chemicals are low in nutrients because the soil
is depleted. This shows that chemicals actually reduce the amount of
nutrients in plants after application. The nutrients most often
affected are vitamin C, beta carotene, and the B vitamins. These
nutrients are vitally necessary for the body to withstand the
onslaught of chemical toxins. Vitamin C has been well documented by
two-time Nobel laureate Linus Pauling to prevent and treat cancers.
Beta carotene has been shown to be a stimulant of the immune system,
and is sometimes able to prevent lung cancer.
When they studied organic food for mineral levels, the
researchers also looked for the amount of the heavy metals aluminum,
cadmium, lead and mercury. Aluminum has been implicated for years in
the development of Alzheimer's disease. It's content in organic food
averaged 40% less that in commercial foods. Lead toxicity, which has
been in the new a lot lately, can adversely affect our children's'
IQ. It averaged 29% lower in organic foods. Mercury, which can cause
neurologic damage, averaged 25% lower in organic foods.
Besides the lower levels of heavy metals, there are the chemical
residues themselves. The big question is whether or not the
accumulation of pesticide residues in non-organic foods is a real
health concern or not. Studies have never been able to conclusively
show a direct correlation between residues in food and a decline of
human health, but there are numerous problems in doing any such
study. The first is that you would need a population of people who
are free of chemical residues to compare to, and no one has been
able to find such a group. According to an ongoing EPA study of fat
samples taken from surgeries and autopsies across the country, we
are all loaded with chemical residues. Similar studies done on other
countries all show the same results.
The clearest studies that we have about pesticide residues and
disease are those looking at breast cancer. In the last few years
there have been a series of studies, each building upon the other,
looking at the level of DDT, DDE, and PCB in women, They have very
clearly shown that chemical residues in the serum and fat cells of
women greatly increase the risk of breast cancer. Since breast
cancer is a major killer of women in this country it is reasonable
to say that avoidance of pesticide residues in food (the only known
route of exposure to DDT in this country, since we no longer use it
to spray for mosquitoes) could save numerous lives and reduce our
health care cost dramatically.
After 50 years of "Better Living Through Chemistry" scientists
have finally shown that breast cancer is associated with pesticide
residue, They have yet to prove that it causes numerous other
maladies. I am not waiting for them to prove it before I change my
eating habits. As a clinician who sees numerous environmentally
poisoned people with health problems, I am convinced of an
association between chemicals and disease. The biggest source of
exposure for many people is their workplace, then their homes,
followed by air, food and water. Of these the easiest to control are
our home environment and our diet.
Eating organic food, drinking pure water, and watching our
airborne chemical exposure can have profound effects on our health.
My friend Steve, who has now gone through an extensive protocol to
remove the pesticide residue from his body and had regained his
health, will back me up on that. When he added up the costs of his
illness in time off work and medical expenses, he found that eating
organic food was much less expensive than eating non-organic foods.
He is eating better foods now, and my organic garden continues to
grow, along with my children.
Walter J. Crinnion N.D., is a Naturopathic Physician in Bellevue,
Washington. He is a faculty member at Bastyr University in Seattle,
where he teaches Environmental Toxicity, and Clinical Ecology. He is
also adjunct faculty at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine,
where he teaches an intensive class on Environmental Medicine. Since
1987, Dr. Crinnion has operated the most comprehensive cleansing
protocol in the nation.