A clear reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes has been observed among consumers who are the most adept "organic" for their plate, compared to people who consume it less often. This is what an epidemiological study conducted from the NutriNet-Santé cohort reveals. Women would be particularly concerned.

The market for organically grown food has grown significantly in recent years. Beyond the environmental aspect, one of the main motivations is the fact that these products come from production methods without phytosanitary products and could therefore be accompanied by health benefits. But the available epidemiological data are not sufficient at present to conclude that organic food has a protective effect on health. Thus, while studies suggest that pesticides may be associated with type 2 diabetes (T2DM), none have studied the potential association between the consumption of “organic” products and the risk of T2DM.

This was the goal of a Franco-American team whose study was published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity and relayed by "Le Monde". This is based on data from 33,256 participants (76% of women with an average age of 53 years) from the French prospective cohort study NutriNet-Santé. This is presented as a cohort study (involving a group of subjects followed for several years) carried out on a large population of adult volunteers, the objective of which is to study the relationship between nutrition and health. Volunteers called “Nutrinautes” are followed through the NutriNet-Santé website throughout the study.

A risk reduced by 35% among heavy organic consumers

For this specific work, the volunteers had to answer regular questionnaires on their frequency of consumption of organic food over a period from 2014 to 2019. “This allowed us to have a very fine estimate of the quantity of each. type of product consumed: plant products, animals, organic or not, etc. ", Explains the epidemiologist Emmanuelle Kesse-Guyot of INRAE, the first author of the study, to Le Monde. Based on the proportion of "organic" foods that participants reported consuming, these were categorized into five categories: never, rarely, half the time, often and always. During follow-up, 293 cases of type 2 diabetes were identified.

The researchers found that, after adjusting for confounding factors such as lifestyle (physical activity, smoking, alcohol consumption) and the general nutritional quality of the diet assessed according to French recommendations, the consumption of food labeled "AB" was well associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Ansin participants with the highest quintile of consumption of "organic" foods compared to those with the lowest quintile had a 35% risk lower T2DM. And every 5% increase in consumption of these foods over the total diet was associated with a 3% decrease in risk.

 In question, the presence of residues of synthetic pesticides

Scientists say the outcome was otherwise different depending on the gender of the participants. “We see a particularly strong effect in women, with a 65% risk reduction in the heaviest consumers of organic products, but no significant effect in men, who represent 24% of the cohort. “, Specifies in the World Emmanuelle Kesse-Guyot. The team therefore believes that “these results suggest that the potential benefits of consuming organic foods may contribute to the prevention of T2DM. As for the mechanism behind this beneficial association, they point to the possible role of pesticides in conventional food.

Indeed, the study underlines that “certain epidemiological or experimental studies in animals support the biological plausibility according to which exposure to several classes of pesticides can affect the risk of obesity or diabetes. Certain specific molecules (pyrethroids, organophosphates and organochlorines) are potential endocrine disruptors, responsible for possible metabolic disorders. Another lead suggested: organic plant-based foods have higher concentrations of certain antioxidants such as carotenoids, while organic foods of animal origin have higher concentrations of n-3 fatty acids.

The researchers conclude, however, that further studies, conducted in other settings and over a longer period of time, are needed "to replicate these results for confirmatory purposes and to elucidate the underlying mechanisms." It should be noted that this is not the first time that the advantages of a predominantly "organic" diet have been mentioned. In 2018, a study carried out by an INRAE ​​team through the analysis of a sample of 68,946 participants from the NutriNet-Santé cohort observed a 25% decrease in the risk of cancer (all types combined) in regular consumers of organic food compared to more occasional consumers.