The Organic Center (TOC), a leading research institute focused on the science of organic food and farming, announced that a balanced, organic diet-both before and during pregnancy-can significantly reduce a child’s likelihood of becoming overweight or obese or developing diabetes.
A synthesis of over 150 scientific studies, The Organic Center report “That First Step: Organic Food and a Healthier Future” reveals that exposure to pesticides during pregnancy increases the risk of premature birth, low birth weight, neurological problems, and diabetes. Outlining six ways in which a balanced organic diet can contribute to healthy development, the report also examines how enzymes found in organic foods can slow-even reverse-aspects of the aging process.
The time between initial conception to the early years of development is the most critical in establishing lifelong health. A well-balanced diet rich in organic fruits and vegetables helps establish healthy food-taste preferences, promotes healthy patterns of cell division, and largely eliminates exposures to approximately 180 pesticides known to increase the risk of developmental abnormalities. Furthermore, this combination of reducing pesticide exposure and consuming nutrient-dense organic foods can help people manage weight and prevent diabetes.
“The conscious decision to purchase organic food to improve one’s health or the health of family members is a critical first step that millions of individuals have decided to take,” said Dr. Charles Benbrook, co-author of the report and the chief scientist at The Organic Center. “Often this first step is the hardest. As a nation, we need to encourage and reward people taking this and other steps toward a healthier diet.”
The report reveals that an organic diet before and during pregnancy can help the fetus develop a healthy endocrine system, which regulates metabolism and tissue function. Children and adults with healthy endocrine systems have an easier time managing their weight and blood sugar levels and are less likely to combat obesity and diabetes later in life. However, exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in life’s earliest stages-including pesticides used in conventional farming methods-can upset the child’s development and create health problems later on.
“When I started my practice, it was unusual to see a child with high blood pressure, high blood glucose and triglycerides, and/or increased waist size,” said Alan Greene, a leading pediatrician and board member of The Organic Center. “But today, about two-thirds of U.S. teens already have at least one of these middle-age conditions that predispose children to metabolic syndrome later in life.”
Currently, two out of three American adults are overweight or obese, and if current trends continue, the vast majority will be overweight by 2048. To combat this alarming trend, the report suggests a new model for health and well-being at every age: an organic Mediterranean-style diet high in fiber and vegetable proteins and low in carbohydrates, meats, and saturated fats.
With organic fruits, vegetables, and grains that contain an average of 30 percent higher levels of antioxidants than their conventional counterparts, people at all life stages-from pregnant mothers to elders-can take important steps to promote their well-being.
Study co-authors Dr. Christine McCullum-Gomez and Dr. Richard Theuer highlight two key conclusions: “Breastfeeding your baby for at least six months and adopting a Mediterranean diet, based on whole grains, vegetables, dried beans, olive oil, garlic, fresh herbs, seafood and fruit, will help keep you and your children on the right path to good health.”
About The Organic Center
The Organic Center’s unique mission is to advance scientific research on the health and environmental benefits of organic foods, and to communicate those benefits to the public. As an independent nonprofit 501(c)(3) research and education organization, we envision improved health for the earth and its inhabitants through conversion of agriculture to organic methods. All of The Organic Center’s research reports, publications, consumer guides, and videos are available free of charge on our website, http://www.organic-center.org.