Organic food: Can it prevent allergies in children?
In today’s day and age, parents are more conscious than ever about the food their children eat and its impact on their health and nutrition. For many, it’s important to know how the food has been grown, and whether it has been exposed to harmful chemicals and hormones. This is why organic foods are being embraced by an increasing number today.
However, not all Indian parents are aware about the ingredients or the benefits of organic foods. And opinions about organic foods can widely vary as well, based on your location, community or lifestyle. So, if you have heard that organic vegetables, fruits and milk can prevent allergies like eczema and asthma in kids, you need to read this article and find out for yourself what you should buy. Let’s dig in.
What is organic food?
The term organic refers to the way a food is grown on the farm. Rules vary from one country to another, but overall, it is agreed that organic crops must be grown without the use of artificial pesticides, GMOs or bioengineered genes, fertilizers based on petroleum, and fertilizers based on sewage sludge. Animals like cows and chicken, which are raised for meat, eggs, and dairy products, should be free-range or have access to outdoor areas. Their feed should be organic as well. In addition, these animals cannot be given growth hormones, antibiotics, or by-products from other animals. In India, under the Food Safety and Standards (Organic Foods) Regulations, 2017, organic products are certified under the Jaivik Bharat brand.
What are the benefits of organic foods?
Organic foods are supposed to come with a whole range of benefits primarily because of the way they are grown. Some of them are:
- They contains fewer pesticides and pesticide residues
- Organic food might be fresher too since they are produced in small batches
- Livestock that have been reared as per organic standards are supposed to be healthier as they get to roam and feed freely
- Organic foods are richer in certain nutrients as well. Organic meat and milk are known to have higher levels of certain nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, compared to conventionally raised versions
Do organic foods really help in reducing allergy risk in children?
A lot of people do mention reduction or decrease in allergic symptoms in their kids, after switching to an organic diet. Researchers have tried to study this in a more scientific manner so that they can give a more definite answer.
One of the main studies done was in Holland where they studied pregnant women and their diet, and later on, their children at different age groups and the children’s diet. Based on what they ate, they were all categorized into one of the following three groups
- Conventional diet (less than 50% of food eaten was organic)
- Moderately organic (50-90% of food eaten was organic)
- Strictly organic (more than 90% of the food consumed was organic)
It was found that the children who ate a moderately or strictly organic diet didn’t have more immunity to eczema or wheezing, when compared to children who ate a conventional diet. Also, organic food consumption was not found to reduce allergy risks. However, children who drank strictly organic milk (more than 90% of the time) were found to have a lower risk of developing eczema. Hence, the protective role of organic foods against the development of allergy was found to be food-specific.
However, some other researchers have found that people with allergic rhinitis (due to pollen allergy) are able to tolerate specific organic foods better than their conventional counterparts. They believe that this may be either due to the reduced pesticide residue stimulation of the immune system or higher levels of antioxidants present in organic foods.
So, it is easy to see that there is no clear evidence to suggest that organic foods can benefit your children significantly more than traditionally grown foods. However, it goes without saying that organic foods can do no harm and are more natural. Hence, they can be chosen for your children to prepare a diet that is almost completely organic or partially organic.