Let Facts, Not Fear, Guide Healthy Food Choices

4/16/2014 11:25 AM

There are decades of nutritional studies that clearly show that consumption of fruits and vegetables improves health and leads to a longer life – these studies were largely conducted using conventionally grown produce.  And, there is an impressive body of work by the government plus peer reviewed science that shows that residues, if they are present at all, do not pose a food safety concern. Yet certain activist groups continue to perpetuate misinformation that provokes fears about produce safety and one even resorts to calling popular fruits and vegetables “dirty.” 

This month two new peer reviewed studies have become part of that scientific body of work that demonstrates the health and safety of produce. This information should be reassuring to consumers with concerns about pesticide residues. 

Benefits of Consumption:

The first comes from the University College of London  and showed that people who ate seven or more servings of produce per day reduced their risk of premature death by 42%.  Consuming that many servings reduced the risk of death from cancer by 25% and heart disease by 31%.  This research was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health and studied the eating habits of over 65,000 people from 2001 to 2013.  The study also examined produce consumption of lesser amounts each day and found that risk of premature death by any cause is reduced by 14% if you eat one to three servings a day; 29% for three to five servings; and, 36% for five to seven servings. 

(Another peer reviewed nutrition study published in the journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology found that if half of all Americans increased consumption of fruits and veggies by a single serving a day, 20,000 cancer cases could be prevented annually.)

No Increased Cancer Risk From Conventional Produce Consumption

So while the first study addressed how healthy fruits and veggies really are, the next study reinforces that both organic and conventionally grown foods are safe to eat.  A study conducted by Oxford University and published in the British Journal of Cancer found that there was no difference in cancer rates of middle aged women who consumed organic foods compared to women who ate conventionally grown foods. This research was sponsored by a British cancer research charity.  According to that charity’s health information manager Dr. Claire Knight:

“This study adds to the evidence that eating organically grown food doesn’t lower your overall cancer risk.  Scientists have estimated that over 9% of cancer cases in the UK may be linked to dietary factors, of which almost 5% are linked to not eating enough fruit and vegetables. So eating a well-balanced diet which is high in fruit and vegetables – whether conventionally grown or not – can help reduce cancer risk.”

Note the term “adds to the evidence.”  How much more do we need?  It is time to stop with the fear inducing, inaccurate statements and let consumers know the facts about produce safety.  And, those facts support the recommendation of health experts everywhere – eat more conventionally and organically grown fruits and veggies for better health and a longer life.  Both production systems yield very safe foods and the right choice is to always eat more.  

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