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Feb 06, 2015 11:32 AM EST

Organic Food May Reduce Pesticide Exposure

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Many health-conscious individuals who understand the benefits of eating fresh fruits and veggies are not aware of the amount of pesticides they could be ingesting along with their vitamin C and fiber.

Researchers at Boise State University found that among individuals eating similar amounts of fruits and vegetables, those who reported eating organic produce had significantly lower OP pesticide exposures than those consuming conventionally grown produce.

"For most Americans, diet is the primary source of organophosphates (OPs) pesticide exposure," Cynthia Curl, researcher and an assistant professor in Boise State University's School of Allied Health Sciences, said in a statement. "The study suggests that by eating organically grown versions of those foods highest in pesticide residues, we can make a measurable difference in the levels of pesticides in our bodies."

For the study, researchers analyzed the dietary exposure of nearly 4,500 people from six U.S. cities to OPs, the most common insecticides used on conventionally grown produce in the United States. OP pesticides are linked to a number of detrimental health effects, particularly among agricultural workers who are regularly exposed to the chemicals.

This study also included dietary data collected from participants in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, a large, multi-institutional project funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute that is investigating factors that influence the onset of cardiovascular disease.

While Curl's study is not the first to link organic produce with reduced pesticide exposure, the method she used may have significant implications for future research. By combining self-reported information on typical food consumption with USDA measurements, researchers will be able to conduct research on the relationship between dietary pesticide exposure and health outcomes in bigger populations, without needing to measure urinary metabolites.

"If we can predict pesticide exposure using dietary questionnaire data, then we may be able to understand the potential health effects of dietary exposure to pesticides without having to collect biological samples from people," Curl said. "That will allow research on organic food to be both less expensive and less invasive."

The findings are detailed in the Environmental Health Perspectives.

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