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A recent study indicates the reduced risk of cancer for people who eat organic food. This is not surprising.

The study was conducted in France, and covered about 68,000 individuals. This means that the carcinogens people are exposed to in non organic food can be safely assumed to be from pesticides, weed killers and fungicides.

There is no other differentiator, because artificial fertilizers are not carcinogens. The same salts are abundantly found naturally in soil. They merely supplement and augment what is already there.

Another case could be made that organic food has a better micronutrient profile, and a deficiency or a set of deficiencies could be increasing the cancer risk. However, I am inclined not to believe this theory in the case of the French study.

Here is a note on the study –

What about India? Are we exposed also to carcinogens in food, and is that responsible for a large percentage of the prevalent cancers? Can we know which ones are caused by the pesticides, weed killers and fungicides in our food?

I am afraid it’s not so simple in India. While pesticides, weed killers and fungicides residues in our food are problems, there are several other big carcinogens in our lives that the French do not have to worry about.

In this article, I am not taking about the massive cancer burden due to chewing tobacco, gutkha and smoking.

Here are the other big ones –

1. Extreme air pollution across most of north India from October to March every year.
2. Oxidized PUFA from the use of vegetable oils for high heat cooking practices like tadka, deep frying and frying dry masalas in the pan.
3. Dioxins released from plastics in garbage burning, which has become a practice in almost every neighbourhood outside of the big metros
4. The fast increasing obesity epidemic is a big factor now. Almost ten types of cancers are linked to obesity.
5. Although the cancer link for transfats is circumstantial, I believe that the widespread use of vanspati ghee (partially hydrogenated fats) is a significant cause

What can you do to protect yourself from these?

Use indoor air purifiers and an N95 mask outdoors if you live in North India in the 6 months from October to March. If you can leave for a place with cleaner air during those months, please do so. 50% of lung cancers patients in Delhi are now non-smokers –

For Tadka, frying dry spices in a pan or deep frying, use a low PUFA fat, like ghee, coconut oil or palm oil

Vehemently oppose people burning garbage in your neighbourhood. Make a police complaint if necessary. The fumes from the burning plastic will kill someone in your neighbourhood with cancer. You do not want that to be you or a loved one.

Say no to any food at home or a restaurant or a packaged food that uses vanaspati ghee, margarine, vegetable fat, vegetable shortening or partially hydrogenated fat. Get rid of vanaspati and margarine from your kitchen. Ask the waiter at the restaurant if vanaspati ghee was used in the food. Read packaged product labels and don’t buy foods that contain these.

Get rid of obesity. Switch to very low glycaemic load meals. Switch to a low sugar and low carbohydrate diet. You can not outrun obesity. Exercise is important but not a solution. Diet comes first.

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