Is there re­ally a dif­fer­ence be­tween or­ganic and con­ven­tional pro­duce?

Cape Breton Post - - Advice/games - Keith Roach To Your Good Health Dr. Roach re­grets that he is un­able to an­swer in­di­vid­ual let­ters, but will in­cor­po­rate them in the col­umn when­ever pos­si­ble. Read­ers may email ques­tions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cor­nell.edu or re­quest an or­der form of avail

DEAR DR. ROACH: Do you think there’s much ben­e­fit to buy­ing or­ganic foods, now that my hus­band and I are in our 60s? I’ll gladly pur­chase or­ganic fruits and veg­gies when we host our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren, and our gar­den is chem­i­cal-free, but I can’t imag­ine that the added ex­pense of buy­ing or­ganic will pro­vide much ben­e­fit to se­nior cit­i­zens (on a fixed in­come, no less) whose bodies al­ready have 50 or more years of ex­po­sure to pes­ti­cides and her­bi­cides. Is there any solid ev­i­dence ei­ther way? -- D.B.

AN­SWER: The data are not en­tirely con­clu­sive, but the pre­pon­der­ance of the ev­i­dence is that or­ganic food does not pro­vide sig­nif­i­cant health ben­e­fits, com­pared with con­ven­tion­ally grown foods. In my opin­ion, or­gan­i­cally pro­duced foods are not worth the ex­tra ex­pense just be­cause they are or­ganic.

Both or­gan­i­cally grown and con­ven­tion­ally grown foods con­tain residues of pes­ti­cides, but or­ganic food has lower amounts of con­ven­tional pes­ti­cides (how­ever, nearly all are far be­low the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency stan­dards). Or­ganic foods have a more re­stricted list of pes­ti­cides that can be used, and some of th­ese are poi­sonous to hu­mans. Take, for ex­am­ple, cop­per sul­fate, a chem­i­cal com­monly used in or­ganic farm­ing (in the U.S., but banned in some Euro­pean coun­tries) to kill fun­gus and bac­te­ria. It is many times more deadly, at least in rats, than glyphosate (Roundup), a com­monly used con­ven­tional her­bi­cide. It also is car­cino­genic (can­cer-caus­ing) in an­i­mals.

How­ever, by the time foods ar­rive in a gro­cer’s mar­ket, th­ese chem­i­cals are present at such small amounts (in both or­ganic and con­ven­tional pro­duce) that they are very un­likely to cause any symp­toms or dis­ease.

Most data show that or­ganic food does not have more nu­tri­ents than con­ven­tion­ally grown foods. There may be an ar­gu­ment that or­ganic farms are friend­lier to the en­vi­ron­ment; how­ever, I have had con­ven­tional farm­ers write to me to dis­pute that as well.

Grow­ing your own food is get­ting it as fresh as pos­si­ble, but lo­cal farm­ers mar­kets are another good way to buy lo­cal. In my opin­ion, food that is lo­cally pro­duced (whether con­ven­tion­ally or or­gan­i­cally) is likely to be fresher and more nu­tri­tious than food shipped in from far away. Wash­ing the pro­duce un­der run­ning wa­ter and rub­bing gen­tly with hands or a veg­etable brush gets rid of most of the resid­ual pes­ti­cides, dirt and bac­te­ria.

Bac­te­rial in­fec­tions are in­creas­ingly a prob­lem with or­gan­i­cally pro­duced foods, with over half of re­cent food­borne ill­ness at­trib­ut­able to or­ganic foods. All pro­duce needs to be rinsed: Dan­ger from bac­te­rial con­tam­i­na­tion is prob­a­bly greater than the risk from pes­ti­cides.

There is a great deal of fur­ther in­for­ma­tion about this, but I found much that was bi­ased (both pro-or­ganic and pro-con­ven­tional), even from or­ga­ni­za­tions I have re­spected. I found good and un­bi­ased in­for­ma­tion from the na­tional pes­ti­cide in­for­ma­tion cen­ter at npic.orst.edu.

DEAR DR. ROACH: Af­ter a bout of arm pain due to in­flam­ma­tion in the C-7 disk in my neck was re­solved us­ing a pre­scrip­tion anti-in­flam­ma­tory, I asked my or­tho­pe­dist if there were sup­ple­ments that could help. He sug­gested tart cherry juice as a sci­en­tif­i­cally proven anti-in­flam­ma­tory. I have tried it and feel a def­i­nite im­prove­ment with re­spect to the arm and other arthritic “hot spots” I have. Real or the placebo ef­fect? -- J.V.S.

AN­SWER: Tart (Mont­morency) cher­ries have anti-in­flam­ma­tory prop­er­ties, and pre­lim­i­nary stud­ies have shown that they help peo­ple re­cover from ex­er­cise faster, im­prove strength and re­duce in­flam­ma­tion af­ter in­tense ex­er­tion. Larger, well-de­signed tri­als are needed to con­firm th­ese re­sults, but the re­sults so far are en­cour­ag­ing. Most stud­ies used cherry juice con­cen­trate twice a day, of an amount equiv­a­lent to the juice of 45 cher­ries.

It’s al­ways im­pos­si­ble in an in­di­vid­ual to sep­a­rate “real” or placebo, but there are data sup­port­ing tart cher­ries for re­lief of in­flam­ma­tion.

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