A recent study at Boise State University in Idaho says that when it comes to pesticide exposure, organic foods live up to the health hype that's been surrounding them for decades.
In their study, which was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, the research team worked with dietary data from 4500 people from six cities in the US.
Using the data, they were able to analyse exposure to components called organophosphates (OPs) that are found in the insecticides that are widely used among conventional producers in the US.
Participants' exposure to OPs was calculated using the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) measurements of pesticide residue levels in the foods in their diets and the amount of those foods they actually consumed.
The research team then compared these sums to the pesticide levels obtained from urine samples of a subset of 720 participants.
Indeed, data analysis showed that subjects who ate organic produce had significantly less exposure to OPs than those who didn't - even if they ate similar amounts of fruits and vegetables between them.
Foods with the highest rate of treatment with OP pesticides include apples, nectarines and peaches, and subjects who ate the most of these foods sourced from conventional growers showed even greater exposure.
"For most Americans, diet is the primary source of OP pesticide exposure," says Cynthia Curl, an assistant professor at BSU. "The study suggests that by eating organically grown versions of those foods highest in pesticide residues, we can make a measurable difference in the levels of pesticides in our bodies."
Curl advises those looking to reduce their pesticide exposure to stick with organic versions of the foods known to contain the most pesticides based on the findings of US-based watchdog the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
The EWG refers to these foods collectively as the "Dirty Dozen" list, and it includes apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, sweet bell peppers, imported nectarines, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and potatoes.