My business partner knows that my wife and I are committed to eating organically as much as possible, and he recently asked me a question I hadn’t given much thought to. He asked: “At what point does eating organically begin to have some positive effect on your health?” This question makes a lot of sense since one can easily get the feeling that most efforts to eat organically/healthfully are just a drop in the sea of crap that we are exposed to on any given day.
When Adelle Davis, the high-priestess of the natural foods movement was diagnosed with bone cancer in the early ’70’s (she was in her late ’60’s) she was reputedly asked how it felt to have gotten such a grave disease despite a lifetime spent eating all the “healthiest” foods. She replied that she could only console herself with the belief that if she hadn’t eaten the way she did, she might have died much sooner! Therein of course lies the crux of the issue.
Only strictly controlled longitudinal studies could ever establish whether or not eating organically made any difference in mortality or morbidity (the chances of getting sick). Human beings being what we are, the ability to control eating and other lifestyle elements with the rigor required, would be virtually impossible for the many years such a study would take. And, I’m not sure anything could really be proven because of all the other disease-producing agents we are all subjected to on any given day.
A partial answer then, lies in the concept of “toxic load”. If we accept that we are all bombarded daily by hundreds (if not thousands) of life-robbing factors (air pollution, stress, environmental toxins, etc., etc.), at the end of the day (no pun intended) it really becomes an issue of reducing the total load of these factors on our bodies. Food is only one important source…but, it is a more-or-less easily controllable source! But there is no assurance that eating organically will have any impact on health if you are exposed to other significant “pollutants”.
My Father-in-law smoked a pack-a-day, drank alcohol copiously (being polite here!), consumed 10 cups of coffee daily, and ate eggs and bacon almost daily. He lived to be 80 and finally died from the effects of emphysema. BUT…he was always very slim, almost never ate junk food, worked at a modest pace, and had a caring spouse who made sure he was kept well-fed with homemade food and taken care of. Many such examples are available…and smokers, drinkers, etc., often avail themselves of these to justify their particular vice (“Why, I had an uncle who smoked 3 packs a day and lived to be 100!”). But that uncle probably didn’t live in today’s air pollution, never saw a fast-food burger, and walked a couple of miles to work every day where he cut lumber by hand!
The answer to my partner then is: “I don’t know, I’m just doing the best I can to reduce my overall toxic load…every little bit may help!”