Nutrition & Cancer Healing

On organic vs conventional food and cancer

with particular emphasis on the role of flavonoids

by copyright Healing Cancer Naturally, © 2004 & 2018

General

For a detailed eye-opening write-up on conventional husbandry and rising cancer incidence, read this revealing article outlining ”what may well be a simple, supremely effective, and completely natural cancer cure”.

The basic advantage of organically grown foods over those grown conventionally can be summed up as "more nutrition (vitamins, minerals, "secondary plant compounds"...) and less or no toxins (pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, GMO etc.) ".

Furthermore, thanks to the use of seaweed, rock flour etc. as fertilizers, all properly grown organic food boasts a more varied, balanced and complete mineral and trace element spectrum (which as can be seen from the above-linked article may be a decisive factor in the prevention of cancer).

Much research has been directed at the more recent kids on the block - the so-called secondary plant compounds (or metabolites) and their potential role in cancer prevention and health promotion.

Increased flavonoid content in organic foods

Flavonoids are secondary plant compounds which form a subgroup of the so-called polyphenols.

Flavonoids are the pigments which give flowers, fruits, vegetables and medicinal plants their colour, with hues ranging from red to ultraviolet, yellow etc. (in fact their name is derived from the Latin word "flavus" for yellow). Flavonoids are the polyphenols most commonly found in foodstuffs and widely present in nature, with over 6,000 of them having been described to date.

Flavonoids are powerful antioxydants (which protect cells against free radical damage) and anti-cancer benefits have been ascribed to them (see next headers).

In one nutritional study, Danish scientists found that the ingestion of ecological (organic) foods versus conventionally grown foods resulted in a higher intake of flavonoids.[5]

While former studies had only addressed individual flavonoids, this study analysed the intake and excretion of five flavonoids. ‘The organic diet was found to contain significantly higher levels of the antioxidant quercetin, which was detected in significantly higher concentrations in the urine of those eating the organic diet.’ The authors concluded that ‘the growing conditions of fruits and vegetables (conventional vs organic) affected the content of five selected flavonoids and resulted in differences in the urinary excretion of major dietary flavonoids.’"

The fact that ecologically produced fruit and vegetables exhibit higher phenolic contents than conventionally grown produce has been previously proved (such as by Asami et al. in 2003[6]).

The study’s authors presume that one of the reasons for the higher phenol content may be the absence of pesticides in organic husbandry. The function of secondary plant compounds is to help plants to naturally repel insects, fungi and bacteria. Conventionally grown produce due to the use of pesticides requires less of these natural ”antibodies”.[1]

For the same reason, in terms of health-promoting phenols, you are likely to get even higher quantities by including wild herbs (which in adddition can be highly therapeutic[2]) into your menu.

Examples of flavonoids with proven anti-cancer benefits

Some of the better known flavonoids include the already mentioned quercetin (found e.g. in onions and apples) as well as the oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPC).

While the amount of quercetin varies widely according to the plant variety, growth conditions, harvesting season etc., you can find average values listed in places such as the USDA’s Database on the Flavonoid Content of Selected Foods.[4]

Oligomeric proanthocyanidins (aka condensed tannins) are commonly found in grape seeds, pine barks and interestingly, in St. John's wort.

Studies: flavonoids and cancer

Some scientific research looking into the relationship of flavonoid intake and cancer development (among 17620+ - tendency growing - listed in the biomedical database PubMed (in April 2018):

  • The antitumor activities of flavonoids: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/PubMed/16097445
  • Flavonoids, Breast Cancer Chemopreventive and/or Chemotherapeutic Agents.
    www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26502949
  • Dietary flavonoids and gastric cancer risk in a Korean population.
    www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25389898
  • Review of anticancer mechanisms of isoquercitin. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27081641
  • Quercetin induces necrosis and apoptosis in SCC-9 oral cancer cells: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/PubMed/16573383
  • Dietary Flavonoid Intake and Smoking-Related Cancer Risk: A Meta-Analysis
    www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3777962/
  • Gastric cancer: epidemiologic aspects.
    www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24011243
    (linking flavonoid intake to lowered stomach carcinoma risk in women)

Organic vs. non-organic foods: statistically significant differences confirmed

Researchers at Newcastle university in 2014 undertook meta-analyses of 343 peer-reviewed publications to determine whether there were significant nutritional differences between organic and conventionally grown foods. Among other findings, antioxidants such as polyphenolics (phenolic acids, flavanones, flavones, flavonols, stilbenes and anthocyanins) were found to be substantially higher in organic foods.[7]

Pesticides and cancer

Conventional pesticides, herbicides and fungicides of course are not allowed in organic farming. Guy-Claude Burger who healed himself of cancer (diagnosed at age 26) by his self-developed ”instinctive” all-raw organic diet[3] writes in "Instinctothérapie, Manger Vrai". ”Very serious present-day scientific studies have demonstrated that pesticidal residue disrupts enzymatic activity. It also has toxic, carcinogenic effects. At this point, science is now siding with the standard-bearers of organic farming.” See Pesticides which includes an anecdotal case history illustrating the possibly major importance of avoiding nonorganic fruits and vegetables.

Organic food alone is not the be-all and end-all of a healthy diet

While it would be nice if it were so, in today's toxic world there may be health dangers lurking even in the most unexpected corners. Compare e.g. Chlorine dangers: “Cancer-fighting nutrients become deadly when combined with chlorinated tap water”, Rising atmospheric CO2 decreases micronutrients in plants world-wide and of course the entire Nutrition and Supplements sections.

Thoughts on food as energy - or another reason why organic is better

As we all know, at its most basic level everything is made up of various types of energy - including food.

I believe by choosing organic food as much as possible (or growing it ourselves including some herbs on the window sill) we not only avoid pesticides and ingest a balanced mineral/trace element spectrum and higher vitamin & nutrient content while showing that we care about the soil and earth we live on, but we also ingest "positive" energies. These are the positive energy and vibrations of people who care about the earth, animals and human beings by choosing not to poison them or, as do conventional farmers, only think in terms of short-term profit without regard for long-term consequences for soil, earth, animals, plants and humans...

There are "image-producing" methods for evaluating food quality (such as copper chloride biocrystallization etc., originally developed by the anthroposophists if memory serves), which consistently show harmonious and beautiful patterns created by extracts of organically grown foods versus inharmonious and unstructured patterns created by extracts of conventionally grown food...

So I feel that eating foods (energies) thus produced can only have a positive effect on health on all levels... In this sense, food nourishes the spirit as well as the body (inseparable in any case)...

Footnotes

1 Compiled on the basis of information provided by Öko-Institut, Freiburg, Germany, and International Organic FQH Research Association, now Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL).

2 See e.g. the scientifically established medicinal effects of stinging nettles and dandelion. Make sure to gather wild herbs only from clean areas as far away from traffic and conventionally used agricultural land as possible

3 See sunfood.net/anopsology_1.html . Also compare Raw food treatment for cancer.

4 See www.ars.usda.gov/ARSUserFiles/80400525/Articles/AICR06_flav.pdf .

5 See Grinder-Pedersen et al.: "Effect of Diets Based on Foods from Conventional versus Organic Production on Intake and Excretion of Flavonoids and Markers of Antioxidative Defense in Humans" published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2003.)

6 See "Comparison of the total Phenolic and Ascorbic Acid Content of Freeze-Dried and Air-Dried Marionberry, Strawberry, and Corn Grown Conventional, Organic and Sustainable Agricultural Practices" published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry).

7 See "Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses" published in the British Journal of Nutrition (2014). Abstract at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/PubMed/24968103 and free full text at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4141693/ .

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