From the Health Ranger
A new study due to be published in the July 2014 edition of the Journal of Environmental Research has found that eating an organic diet for just one week can reduce pesticide levels in adults by almost 90%. The study reaffirms the findings of a 2006 study on children which found that organic diets greatly lowered children’s levels of organophosphorus pesticides.
The study’s findings have important implications in reducing pesticide exposure at a time when much of our commercial non-organic produce is laden with pesticides, as well as for the value of regularly consuming organic produce, especially for children.
Details of the new study
The study was conducted by RMIT University and was led by Dr. Liza Oates. Dr. Oates found that participants’ urinary dialkylphosphate (DAP) levels were 89% lower when they ate an organic diet for seven days compared to a conventional diet for the same time period. DAPs make up about 70% to 80% of organophosphate pesticides.
During the organic phase, the participants consumed, on average, 93% organic food — including 83% “certified organic” and 10% “likely organic” food. Dr Oates said the large drop in organophosphate pesticide levels suggested that the source of most of the pesticides comes from food consumption. However, she also recognized it could come from other sources such as inhalation and skin absorption.
Research has linked a number of health issues with pesticides, including cancer and issues with the central nervous system. Dr. Oates said that the latter is not surprising, since “a lot of these agents were initially developed as nerve gases for chemical warfare.”
In a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers found that children who have high levels of pesticide residues are 93% more likely to have ADHD.
The pesticides in our produce
Much of our produce is contaminated with significant levels of pesticides. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which just released its list of the most pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables, apples are the worst offender of all. Most conventionally grown apples sold in the U.S. are treated with diphenylamine (DPA), a chemical pesticide that also helps prevent browning and allows apples to lie in cold storage for up to a year before they appear at your local grocery store. The problem is that, the longer the apples remain in storage, the more DPA penetrates into the fruit.
A study of DPA metabolism in treated apples found that DPA penetrates from the skin into the pulp of the fruit, and after 40 weeks the pulp contains 32% of the pesticide residue. In 2010, USDA scientists tested raw apples and found DPA on 80% of fruits tested.
Other produce listed on EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” for 2014: strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, sweet bell peppers, imported nectarines, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and potatoes. Each of these contains a number of different pesticide residues and has high concentrations of pesticides compared to other produce items.
Obviously, the healthiest diet plan is to switch to certified organic produce (or else grow your own organic fruits and vegetables) to help reduce existing pesticide levels and then continue consuming organic produce to prevent pesticide levels from building back up in the future.
Ironically, organic apples which are free of pesticides are some of the best fruits when it comes to removing pesticides and other toxins, especially when apples are sliced and allowed to brown and thus produce pectin, an excellent detoxifier.
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