April 2, 2015

Is it really necessary to buy organic products?

Is it necessary to buy organic?

One of my goals of this blog, is to share with others the “why” behind healthy living. I think many of us try to be healthy and buy things that we have heard are supposedly healthy, without knowing why. With so many changing trends in health (don’t eat fat, don’t eat egg yolks, buy sugar-free…) how do you know what is accurate? Well, this is my specialty! I LOVE research. I have to know the why behind everything before I know it’s true. My husband says that I’m stubborn 😉

Buying organic products can be expensive. So let’s discuss, is it really necessary to eat organic food?

Here is a description of what organic actually means, from Eatingwell.com:

“Animal products sold or labeled as organically produced are not given any kind of antibiotics or growth hormones, are only fed with organic feed and are not administered any type of medication aside from vaccinations or to treat an illness. Fruits and vegetables that are labeled and sold as organic are grown without using most pesticides or fertilizers with synthetic ingredients; there is no irradiation treatment; seeds and transplants are chemical-free; the fertilizer is natural.”

All of that sounds great, right?! But, what does it mean? Is it really that bad to eat food that has been made with synthetic ingredients, pesticides, and processed chemicals? All of those things sound scary, but with the mass-production of them in grocery stores all over the country, it seems as though they couldn’t hurt us.

The major problem with researching organic products, is that there are no specific answers. Many of the studies on the safety of food have been completed by individual  companies, rather than scientists with unbiased opinions. Let’s break this down, piece by piece. Here are the results that I have found:

(I cite where I found my information, but note that most of this information was found on multiple sites.)

1.ANTIBIOTICS

Antibiotics are given to animals to cause weight gain.

The problem with anti-biotics–when used unnecessarily– is that when we do need them, our bodies may be resistant to them. (This is exactly why we need to take our medications correctly as well.)

“The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated that CLEAR SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE indicates that the use of these drugs and chemicals in raising seafood can lead to an increased antimicrobial resistance in human pathogens (stronger germs that are resistant to our medicines) and that prolonged exposure to some of these chemicals has been shown to cause cancer.” (foodandwaterwatch.com)

2. GROWTH HORMONES

Growth hormones are most commonly given to cows to produce more milk and to calves to make them grow more quickly. The hormones that are injected are usually testosterone, estrogen, and rGBH. rGBH is a growth hormone that increases the amount of milk dairy cows produce. Although rGBH itself appears safe, it increases the amount of other chemicals in the body that might cause cancer. (1)

Want to know something really gross? rGBH has been shown to cause more cases of mastitis, an infection of the udder, which causes the increase of pus and blood into the milk (2.) EWWW!

“The amount of hormone that enters a person’s bloodstream after eating hormone-treated meat is small compared with the amount of estrogen a person produces daily. However, even low levels of hormones can have strong effects on some body processes.”(1)

Many countries have banned the use of hormones in beef. America has not. Although there is no specific proof at this time, I think it is better to be safe than sorry!

3. PESTICIDES

Pesticides are used on crops to kill insects, weeds, fungus, and rodents.

“Pesticide exposure can cause a range of neurological health effects such as memory loss, loss of coordination, reduced speed of response to stimuli, reduced visual ability, altered or uncontrollable mood and general behavior, and reduced motor skills. These symptoms are often very subtle and may not be recognized by the medical community as a clinical effect. Other possible health effects include asthma, allergies, and hypersensitivity, and pesticide exposure is also linked with cancer, hormone disruption, and problems with reproduction and fetal development.” (4)

Here are some scary stats:

  • 93% of Americans tested by the CDC had metabolites of chlorpyrifos — a nuerotoxic insectide — in their urine. Banned from home use because of its risks to children, chlorpyrifos is part of a family of pesticides (organophosphates) linked to ADHD.
  • 99% of Americans tested positive for DDT degradants, even though DDT hasn’t been used in the U.S. since 1972. Women who were exposed to DDT as girls are 5 times more likely to develop breast cancer. (3)
  • A July 2007 study conducted by researchers at the Public Health Institute, the California Department of Health Services, and the UC Berkeley School of Public Health found a sixfold increase in risk factor for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) for children of women who were exposed to organochlorine pesticides. (4)

4. Chemicals

Our food consists of many man-made chemicals to improve shelf life, reduce mass food production costs, or enhance color. It would take a very long time to list all of the chemicals that are toxic in our food, but here are some of the most common:

BPA: BPA is commonly found in plastic (plastic bags, containers, cans.) “BPA is linked to a wide array of health concerns like reproductive problems, cancer risk, metabolic disorders like obesity, Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance, heart disease and neurobehavioral effects like ADHD. BPA is particularly risky in canned tomatoes because the acidity of the tomato can leech even more of this toxin in to the food.” (5)
BVO: Brominated Vegetable Oil. BVO is found in many sodas and sports drinks. It has been linked to increased cholesterol levels, fatigue, acne, skin rashes, as well as damage to vital organs. (6)
BHT, BHA, TBHQ: Benzoate Preservatives. “These chemicals are used to help keep fats in foods from going rancid.  They’ve been linked with serious concerns like increasing cancer risk, disrupting estrogen balance, urticaria, asthma and hyperactivity.  Read your packages carefully – it’s often lurking in cereal, nut mixes, gum, butter, meat, dehydrated potatoes.”                                                                        Azodicarbonamide. “A bleaching agent used in packaged, processed foods like frozen dinners, pasta and flour mixes in baked goods, this toxic chemical has been linked to cancer risk and asthma.nut mixes, gum, butter, meat, dehydrated potatoes.” (5)

 

So to answer our question, is it really necessary to buy organic? I am a strong believer that everything is best in moderation. Because organic products are more expensive, for some it may be unreasonable to buy everything organic. I would recommend buying the “dirty dozen” organic. And I have found that they really are not that much more expensive.

clean-15-dirty-dozen

Also, when buying milk, read the label. I was surprised to find that Smith’s milk was rGBH free.

So, my conclusion is that yes, we should generally buy products organic. Especially meat, produce, and dairy products. However, I don’t think that eating an occasional non-organic product is going to do any major harm. I think that it problems occur when people have a normally high-toxic diet.

That was a long post! Thanks for reading! I hope that I have answered questions that some may have about the toxic ingredients in our food. Feel free to comment if you have any other questions!

Also, here is my very favorite reference for buying organic products. It gives a great list of healthy alternatives to common products we buy:

http://www.nongmoshoppingguide.com/Non-GMO-Shopping-Guide.pdf

 

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