23 October 2018

Eating organic food helps to reduce risks of cancer

Former French president Sarkozy disliked it and presented it as “boho folklore”, but a scientific study proves that consumers of food coming from organic agriculture have less risk of having cancer than those eating food coming from conventional “chemical” agriculture.

The NutriNet-Santé study conducted by a group of French researchers led to the publication of a paper in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal proving this statement on the basis of the analysis of a cohort of 68,946 French adult volunteers (of which 78% are women and the average age at the start of the study 44,2 years). The cohort was divided into four groups, from the “big” consumers of organic food (more than 50% of their food) to those who hardly if ever consume any. The study concerned 16 products and took place between May 2009 and November 2016. Over that period, the sample recorded 1340 new cases of cancer (34% breast cancers, 13% prostate cancers and 10% skin cancers). Volunteers were requested to fill a questionnaire made available on a dedicated website. The information collected included, in addition to data on food consumption, socioeconomic and lifestyle data, health data and information on the level of physical activity along with anthropometric measurements (height and weight).

Results show that the more people consume organic food and the lesser their risk of having cancer. After adjusting results to take into account the effect of factors such as the level of physical activity and socioeconomic characteristics (as the sample is not representative of the French population), the study showed that consuming organic food helps to reduce by 25% the risk of cancer. This reduction is 35% in the case of post-menopause breast cancers and 76% for lymphomas.

The study confirmed the growing evidence from research showing that being exposed to pesticides is strongly linked to cancer for humans. The levels of intake creating danger are not well known, but studies suggest that being exposed to a cocktail of pesticides, even for low concentrations, can created an accrued toxic effect.

Let’s recall here that the analyses of food conducted by EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) established the presence of pesticide residues in 44% of conventional food products and only in 6.5% of organic food products. [read]


To know more :

  1. Baudry, J. et al. Association of Frequency of Organic Food Consumption With Cancer Risk - Findings From the NutriNet-Santé Prospective Cohort Study, Jama Internal Medicine, 2018.

  2. Étude NutriNet-Santé - Cohorte nationale pour étudier les relations entre la nutrition et la santé, Site Web (in French only).

  3. EFSA, Monitoring data on pesticide residues in food: results on organic versus conventionally produced food, 2018.

Earlier articles on related to the topic:

  1. Monsanto case: a result that does not solve the problem and illustrates the perverse nature of the so-called “consumer protection system” 2018.

  2. The use of pesticides still on the increase in France, 2018.

  3. Is organic agriculture, under pressure from consumers, turning into the central element of the transition from a conventional “chemical” agriculture towards a more sustainable agriculture? 2018.

  4. Production and use of pesticides: an infringement on the rights to food and health, 2017.

  5. To eat more fruits and vegetables is fine. But which ones? 2017

  6. Food, Environment and Health, 2014/2017.

and other articles in our Sustainable agriculture section.


Last update:    October 2018

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