See How Quickly Eating Organic Can Rid Your Body of Pesticides

A new study suggests that just two weeks of eating a changed diet is enough to drastically reduce the amount of lingering ag chemicals.
May 7, 2015·
Willy Blackmore is TakePart’s Food editor.

There are pesticides—and other agricultural chemicals too—in your body right now. With organic food production accounting for less than 1 percent of the world’s farmland, herbicides, fungicides, plant growth regulators, and all the rest are part of the global dietary reality—and when we eat foods treated with them, the chemicals stick around.

Do they pose a health risk? Do they ever go away? Do we need to be worried about them? Should you be paying way more for organic groceries to avoid them?

The short answer is that no one really knows, but a new study funded by a Swedish grocery chain suggests that eating only organic food could be a quick way to get rid of whatever pesticides are in your body. Although the full, independent study, conducted by the Swedish Environmental Research Institute, is not available in English, a video posted Monday suggests that eating organic food for just two weeks could get rid of nearly all of the chemical residues.

The study tested the urine of a Swedish family of five before and after overhauling their kitchen, which originally featured little organic food. “It cost more than conventional food,” said Anette, who, with her husband, Mats, has three young children, “and we’re a big family.”

The initial test showed that each family member had a variety of agriculture chemicals in their urine, which all but disappeared after just 14 days of changing what they ate. While their exact diet isn’t made clear, the video, which shows the family being served mac and cheese and sausages for a meal, isn’t exactly a juice cleanse.

Still, even eating a strictly organic diet doesn’t guarantee a body free of pesticides, as a more extensive study of 4,400 individuals, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives in February, showed. People who ate organic were found to have significantly less organophosphate—one of the most commonly used classes of pesticides—than those who did not, though they still had some residues.

But while direct exposure to organophosphates can be highly dangerous—they’ve been linked with some cancers and can disrupt the endocrine system—it’s unclear what problems long-term, low-level exposure causes.

So what is, as the Swedish video calls it, “the organic effect”? Scientists are still trying to determine that, because it’s that remnant of pesticide and the effect that it has that we really need to understand.