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Study on Organic Food & Birth Defects Reassuring but Basically Meaningless

Forewarning: This study is tiny and basically meaningless, in my humble opinion and in the opinions of several credentialed scientists including those who put it out, but I’m reporting it because I think it can be reassuring to those many of us out there who cannot afford or otherwise access a pregnancy diet of exclusively organic food. And to bring up some good, simple suggestions for how to eat well during pregnancy.

Here’s the deal: Researchers wondered if moms who consumed mostly non-organic foods–which are more likely to contain hormone-disrupting pesticides– would be more likely than organic-food eating moms to have baby boys with a particular penile birth defect. The defect– hypospadias, where the opening of the penis is not at the tip of the penis, but on the underside of it– could be connected to the disrupted hormones as they may be more likely to affect reproductive functioning. This defect affects 1-200 boys.

They did a study (involving 306 mom/son pairs) and found that risk of this defect was not improved by choosing organic over non-organic. There was a slight increased risk with high intake of non-organic butter and cheese but the researchers caution that this is not necessarily a cause-and-effect situation.
But this study is based on self-reporting questionnaires. A stronger study would need to measure levels of chemicals in pregnant women’s blood to test exposure and effect.

I think there’s a lot of anxiety about eating organic.  I would say that during pregnancy the best way to eat is this:

When possible:

  • Organic for fruits and vegetables that have higher exposure to pesticides.
  • Organic and/or antibiotic-free for dairy and meat.

Always:

  • Eat real food over processed food.
  • Avoid sugar.

 

 

Ceridwen Morris (CCE) is a childbirth educator and the co-author of the pregnancy and birth guide From The Hips. Follow her blogging on Facebook.

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