For most people the big benefit of eating organic food may be consuming less pesticide in their diets. But for people with diabetes it’s different.
High blood sugar means having a compromised immune system. Extra sugar in our blood exhausts the immune cells in our body and feeds germs. More than most people we need help.
This help can come from consuming antioxidants. Numerous studies have linked antioxidants to a reduced risk of chronic diseases, including heart, stroke, and neurodegenerative diseases (like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s) and certain cancers. Now, a major study that the British Journal of Nutrition published yesterday show that food grown organically has much higher levels of antioxidants than do conventionally grown crops.
The full-text of the study, “Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses,” is available free online.
In the largest study of its kind, an international team of experts showed that organic crops and crop-based foods are up to 69 percent higher in several key antioxidants than conventionally-grown crops. This meta-analysis of 343 studies contradicted two earlier and smaller meta-analyses comparing organic and conventionally grown food. The new meta-analysis found that concentrations of antioxidants such as polyphenols were between 18 and 69 percent higher in organically-grown crops.
The reason why organically grown food is higher in antioxidants is clear. When plants have pesticides helping to defend them against pests and diseases, they don’t need to mount as vigorous antioxidant defense.
It’s not as clear why organic crops have substantially lower amounts of the toxic heavy metal cadmium. Possibly certain fertilizers used in conventional agriculture somehow make cadmium more available to plant roots. But the new meta-analysis found that conventionally grown food has about twice as much cadmium as food grown organically.
Naturally, organic food is also much lower in pesticide residue than conventionally grown food. Detectable pesticide residues was four times higher in conventional crops than in organic crops. That organic food has any pesticide residue is probably because of contamination from nearby conventional fields.
Clearly, eating organically grown food is better for us than conventional food. How much better is still open to question.
But I think that we need to take advantage of whatever edge we can get in order to master our diabetes. That’s the main reason almost all the food that I have eaten for many years has been organic.
I used to many an exception for the “Clean 15” foods with the least pesticide residue, particularly allowing myself to eat conventionally grown avocados. The Environmental Working Group keeps useful lists of the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean 15.”
But I have come to appreciate that farm workers are even more exposed to pesticides that I am and that pesticides contaminant our water. As a result I now avoid conventionally grown food as much as possible in order to promote the health of the planet as well as my own health.
This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.
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