Why organic food is critical for children

Nutritionist Julie Daniluk discusses the benefits

By their very nature children are more sensitive to pesticides than adults. A child's body continues to grow until 18 but their brain and nervous system are under development until the age of 25. We are all exposed to more chemicals than ever before but can you imagine the body burden our children are experiencing while their systems are growing? Is it any wonder that cancer rates are on the rise in our children?

On October 22, 2012 there was a report released in The Journal of Pediatrics by The American Academy of Pediatrics that spoke to the need for children to eat organic produce and meat. Unfortunately the report did not go far enough. Organic food is a controversial topic and this review is a positive follow up to the poorly constructed study published by Stanford in the Annals of Internal Medicine in September 2012. This particular study strangely concluded that organically grown food has the same nutrition than conventionally grown food.

It has been proven that organic food does contain more Vitamin C and other antioxidants that protect the plant naturally. When organic plants are exposed to pests they respond by producing their own protection that we then reap the benefits from. Some of these important phytonutrients include: Inositol Phosphates (Phytates); Lignans (Phytoestrogens); Isothiocyanates and Indoles; Phenols and Cyclic Compounds; Saponins; Sulfides, Thiols; and Terpenes. Here is a RealNatural.org article that goes into greater detail on the subject. On average, organic produce contains 25% more antioxidants that conventional produce.

Beyond debating their nutrient value, the most important point that needs to be acknowledged is what organic foods does not contain! Certified organic foods must be grown without the use of GMOs (genetically-modified organisms), pesticides, antibiotics and hormones. Organic fields are managed so that the soil contains more minerals that conventional farms.

The American Academy of Pediatrics states, “feeding children organic fruits and vegetables cuts down on the amount of potentially harmful chemicals and also may help prevent immunity to antibiotics”. This study cited several studies that linked pesticide exposure to memory loss and cancer in adult farm workers and an increased risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children.

I am passionate about this topic as I was raised beside a large conventional corn farm. As I child I remember standing in the backyard watching 100’s of acres of corn being sprayed with pesticides. No surprise that I was diagnosed with ADHD! The symptoms to my diagnosis disappeared when my parents switched me to a natural diet!

A study in 2010 led by Maryse Bouchard in Montreal in the journal Pediatrics associates exposure to pesticides with increased cases of ADHD in the U.S. and Canada. In the U.S. alone, an estimated 4.5 million children ages 5 to 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and rates of diagnosis have risen 3% a year between 1997 and 2006.

The team from University of Montreal and Harvard University analyzed the levels of pesticide residue in the urine of more than 1,100 children ages 8 to 15 and found that those with the highest levels of organophosphate pesticides, had the highest incidence of ADHD. A 35% increase in ADHD with every tenfold increase in urinary concentration of the pesticide residue to be exact. Switching to organic produce for five days dramatically reduced the levels of pesticide residue in the urine of children who usually consume conventional produce.

Joel Forman MD, the lead physician of the American Academy of Pediatrics study explains, "Kids' nervous systems are developing. Exposure to toxins can have different and much more profound effects on children," It is important to keep in mind that children cannot metabolize these chemicals until the age of 7 when then liver starts to mature.”

Forman’s team also supports the need to buy organic meat to reduce the risk of exposure to antibiotics given to conventionally raised animals. Eating organic meat reduces the risk of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

The only disappointment of the report was they did not see the point of organic milk. I want to remind people that when you buy conventional ice cream or cheese from the United States you are exposing you and your children to excessive genetically modified growth hormone and anti-biotic that is given to conventionally raised cows. Here is a great article that looks at the topic in depth.

If you struggle with the price of organic, I suggest checking out the Environmental Working Group yearly report of the most important food to buy organically.

I feel Dr. Bouchard says it best, “While pesticide-free fruits and greens may be more costly, they are worth the price in terms of future health”.


Julie Daniluk Nutritionist Julie Daniluk is the bestselling author of Meals That Heal Inflammation / Slimming Meals That Heal and co-host of the Healthy Gourmet on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). Share with Julie on Twitter: @juliedaniluk & Facebook: Julie Daniluk Nutrition