10-4-2012 Dr. Oz weighs in on the new study making the headlines that imply that organic food may not be healthier than conventional food. Researchers at Stanford found that organic foods have the same nutritional value as conventional foods, so the media headlines question if organics may not be worth the money. Dr. Oz says there is a glaring catch to this information. The study seems to put more weight on the nutritional value of food and not as much concern for the toxic chemical pesticides that we consume in some of these conventional foods. He feels that the pesticides in food is a threat to our children’s health. Dr. Oz believes that eating organic foods is one of the best ways to avoid exposure to this health threat and therefore organic food is worth the investment!
Dr. Oz’s guest, pediatrician Dr. Alan Greene, who, for most of his career, has studied how the environment affects children’s health, said the headlines are dangerously misleading. Organic food by definition is grown without the use of hormones, without irradiation, without antibiotics, without genetic engineering, and without toxic synthetic pesticides. He says even the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said that protecting our kids from toxic pesticides is one of their top priorities. They have already lowered the levels on some pesticides.
Dr. Greene is not saying that there is a new epidemic about to happen. But if you look at children’s health today, there seems to be a lot more chronic illness then ever. He says with real world levels of pesticides in kids, in his role as a clinician, he is seeing ADHD, memory problems, low IQ and learning disabilities. If we get rid of these toxins we have great potential for improving health.
Dr. Greene says that pesticides may turn out to be the new lead. Years ago, we once thought that lead was safe. Then it was discovered that lead was affecting the brain. When we got rid of it, everyone’s IQ’s went up a little. Dr. Greene says we have that potential with the lowering of pesticides in our environment.
Dr. Oz runs his own test for pesticide residue.
Dr. Oz knows how expensive it is to eat organic foods and for many families it could be life changing to switch to organic. So he ran his own experiment to see how much of a difference is pesticide levels in organic foods over conventional foods.
Dr. Oz’s team enlisted a California laboratory specializing in pesticide residue on produce. At grocery stores they collected, bagged and labeled samples of fruits and vegetables, 30 of peaches and 6 heads of celery, both organic and conventional. E.M.A. Inc (Environmental Micro Analysis) tested the samples for 91 different pesticides.
What did they find?
- In the organic celery they found no detectable residue
- In the conventional or non-organic celery they found three different types of pesticides. Even after these vegetables were picked, processed and shipped they still had toxins in them.
- In the organic peaches they found two different types of pesticides but at very low levels.
- In the conventional or non-organic peaches they found seven different types of toxic pesticide residue.
Why did the organic peaches have pesticides? Dr. Greene explains there are some natural pesticides that are allowed in organic agriculture. Also organic farms do not exist in isolation. Surrounding conventional farms can use pesticides that can be blown into the air and end up in the water supply and onto nearby organic farms. Organic farming is not part of the problem but part of the solution. The more organic farming that is done the less contamination of pesticides in the environment.
Are government levels of pesticides are safe?
All of the pesticides found in the food tested in Dr. Oz’s experiment was below what the government allows. But the question is ” Is that good enough for you and your family?” Dr. Greene says he cannot look a person in the eye and say that those levels are safe. We just do not know enough. At real world exposure levels there are real concerns and questions still out there. He feels that there are some levels that need to be changed and some pesticides like organophosphates that we should not be using anymore.
The government may allow low levels of these pesticides in concentrations such as parts per million or parts per billion. It may seem that these small amounts could not possibly have a harmful affect on our bodies but Dr. Greene explains why he does not agree. When you look at our powerful medications that we use to treat illness, such as antidepressants which affect our brains, they often work at parts per billion concentrations in our bodies. So why wouldn’t it be possible that a pesticide at parts per billion would affect changes in behavior?
Both doctors agree that we are still learning about pesticides and how they affect young developing children’s bodies and their brains.
Dr. Oz says that while we are figuring out the data, we need to take some action. Our kids deserve better than being part of a national chemistry experiment. One step in reducing your child’s exposure to toxic pesticides is eating organic foods.
Dr. Oz told of kids who had high levels of pesticides in their urine, had those levels dropped significantly after just five days of eating organic foods.
Since organic foods are more expensive, the doctors give us tips of those situations that are the most important to go organic.
- Fruits and Vegetables that you eat the most! – Dr. Greene said this is the best place to start buying organic. Little amounts of the same pesticides in the foods that you eat over and over add up.
- Fruits and Vegetables for your kids. – Dr. Greene said switching from processed foods to fruits and vegetables is a huge important first step in making our kids healthier. Focusing on choosing organic fruits and vegetables not only reduce their exposure to pesticides but organic fruits and vegetables taste better without those chemicals.
- Blueberries – Blueberries are considered a superfood that promotes brain health and contains disease fighting antioxidants. Dr. Greene says choose organic because studies have shown evidence that 28% of frozen blueberries contain organophosphate pesticides which are linked to ADHD.
- Peaches – Dr. Greene explains that conventional peaches are notorious for containing high levels of pesticides because they are sprayed when they’re very young and very small and their skins are very thin. The pesticides get inside and stay there as the peach grows. Some peaches have been found with 50 different pesticides in them!
- Strawberries – Strawberries are naturally high in vitamin C and other disease fighting antioxidants. Dr. Greene says choose organic because strawberries are grown low to the ground where there are a lot of insects in the soil that can get to the strawberry. For that reason, high amounts of pesticides are used.
- Celery – Dr. Greene says celery is consistently on the top of the list of the most contaminated vegetables. It doesn’t have a skin so it soaks up the pesticides all the way through.
- Green leafy vegetables – Leafy greens are important superfoods that contain numerous cancer and disease fighting compounds. Dr. Greene says choose organic because they grow close to the ground and insects love them so these also tend to have high levels of pesticides. The good news is that you can find good deals on organic leafy greens.
- Potatoes – Dr. Greene explains why we should choose organic when it comes to potatoes. They have one of the highest levels of pesticides of any produce and are in a class of its own when it comes to how food becomes contaminated with pesticides. The soil is treated with pesticides before the potato is planted to kill all the bugs in the soil. To avoid blight, a fungi disease, the seeds are soaked in a fungicide which is some of the most toxic pesticides. Then the potato crop is treated with pesticides. Since the potato itself is the storage vessel of the plant, all the pesticides go inside the potato. Then after the potato is harvested it is often treated again with a fungicide to prevent sprouting down the road. With potatoes the most consumed vegetable in the US, going organic here would greatly reduced our pesticide exposure as a whole.
- Half Truths – Dr. Greene says the rule “if it has a thick skin or rind you don’t need to go organic” only applies half of the time. It didn’t apply for the potato as explained above. Dr. Greene explains another example in the cantaloupe that has a thick rind. He says cantaloupes pickup pesticides from the ground, then through their roots the pesticides go up into the fruit. So cantaloupes with their thick rind, ends up with very high levels of pesticides. Another half truth is “washing fruits and vegetables will remove pesticides.” That’s not always true. As we just read, washing fruits and vegetables will not always get rid of the pesticide residue because pesticides are often inside the fruit!
Dr. Oz says to be clear, eating less fruits and vegetables is not the answer! What he is clearly saying is he wants us to eat organic fruits and vegetables.
When we choose organic, we are choosing fewer and lower levels of pesticides. Every bite of food that we take into our bodies is an investment in our body and/or a debt that will need to be repaid somehow.
Why take a chance on the health of our kids? Since organic foods are available why not make your health investment organic foods?
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