I was amazed by the recent Stanford University study on organic foods published in the Sept. 4 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine and widely reported in newspapers, radio and TV. The headlines read something like this “Little evidence of health benefits from organic foods, Stanford study finds”. Eye catching but misleading. In studying the nutritional value as the basis for the decision to buy organic, the study completely misses the reasons why organic foods are important. There have been many critiques of the study including that the studies used were narrowly focused and short-term. The Stanford University website has a link to their Scope Blog that contains comments from the public and journalists. The comments are worth a read if you have the time.
I did not read the study, as it is only available in the Annals of Internal Medicine so I will not comment on the study in terms of its findings on nutritional value. Instead, my focus is on the subject that the authors of the study overlooked. They narrowly defined ‘health benefits’ to (only) mean nutritional value. But in the Stanford University article that summarizes the findings and interviews the authors, it states, “They did not find strong evidence that organic foods are more nutritious or carry fewer health risks than conventional alternatives, though consumption of organic foods can reduce the risk of pesticide exposure.” The article contradicts itself because reducing your risk of pesticide exposure can indeed reduce your health risks. There is a broad array of health risks that are linked to pesticide exposure.
When I am asked by clients ‘Why should I eat organic?’ my #1 response is ‘to avoid exposure to synthetics known as xenoestrogens — hormones, herbicides, pesticides, fungicides — and antibiotics’. And the reason for this is simple. These are known endocrine disruptors. Meaning, there have been countless studies showing that xenoestrogens can wreck havoc on the natural hormone balance in humans and animals. Endocrine disruptors interfere with the body’s natural hormones by binding to estrogen and androgen receptors and mimic natural hormone activity in our bodies. Endocrine disruptors also interfere with how the body uses, metabolizes and eliminates all hormones. The majority of these mimic estrogens and thus we see a growing number of estrogen dominant conditions in our society.
This is no small or inconsequential matter. But don’t take my word for it. Take a look for yourself.
One doesn’t have to search far to find evidence of this. I googled “pesticides and endocrine disruptors” to see what that simple search would bring up. The first link lead me to the National Institute of Health website and the study titled “Effect of Endocrine Disruptor Pesticides: A Review”. It offers a nice review of the effects of pesticide use including links to cancers, reduced male fertility, fetal health, infant developmental problems, and reproductive issues, to name a few.
Another link lead to the Environmental Health News website. This article highlights the risk to men, a population often overlooked when discussing the affects of estrogen dominance. Women and women’s health issues such as breast cancer, fibroids, endometriosis, hot flashes and PMS are the ones that receive the most attention.
Eating organic is one way to minimize the amount of endocrine disrupting chemicals we ingest. The Environmental Working Group does an excellent job of testing fruits and vegetables and has developed a list that is updated annually that highlights produce found to have the most residue (Dirty Dozen) and those with the least (Clean 15). This is an excellent resource to use if struggling with a budget or availability of organic foods.
It’s important also to keep in mind that even a 100% organic diet will not fully protect you from becoming estrogen dominant but it is an excellent start.
I will be hosting a workshop this Monday Oct 22nd at the Mt Tam Racquet Club in Larkspur, CA to discuss ‘Balancing Your Hormones’ and highlight some other steps you can take to normalize your hormones and ease the burden on your body. (Please see Upcoming Events for important note on driving directions.)