Are Organics Really Healthier?

If you wonder whether a diet rich in organics makes a difference to your child's overall well-being, a breakthrough study offers part of the answer. University of Washington researchers compared the diets of 39 Seattle 2- to 5-year-olds, as well as the levels of organophosphorus-pesticide metabolites, or breakdown products, in their urine. Median levels of pesticide metabolites in children who ate primarily organic fruits, vegetables, and juices were about one-sixth that of children who ate conventional foods (Environmental Health Perspectives, 2003, vol. 111, no. 3).

This is valuable information for parents wrestling with whether or not to buy organic foods. Organophosphorus pesticides are a class of insecticides that disrupt the nervous system. Because young children often have diets abundant in foods likely to contain high levels of pesticide residues (juice and fresh produce), they are at a higher risk for exposure.

"This is the first study that has looked at differences in pesticide metabolite levels in children based on dietary choices of organic or conventional food," says Cynthia L. Curl, MS, one study researcher. "If parents are concerned about their child's exposure to pesticides, our findings suggest that they can significantly reduce that exposure by switching to an organic diet."

—Emily Rosenblum