New research from New Mexico State University suggests consuming organic foods may help reduce obesity, while drinking sweetened beverages may increase heart disease deaths.
The findings are part of two new studies co-authored by Jagdish Khubchandani, professor of public health at NMSU. Khubchandani was the corresponding author for an international research team that examined global evidence on the health risks of consuming organic food and sweetened beverages.
“Many American adults buy organic foods in any given year. However, there is a lot of debate about the benefits of organic foods, and we wanted to explore the influence of such foods on body weight,” Khubchandani said.
Khubchandani and his fellow researchers analyzed data from more than 104,000 adults worldwide in their study examining organic food consumption. They found slightly more than 40 percent of the total group had diets that included organic foods. The findings, published in the journal Healthcare, show these individuals had a lower prevalence of obesity and were 11 percent less likely to have excessive body fat than those who did not report any organic food consumption.
The researchers explain in their paper that non-organic foods may have increased health risks due to exposure to chemicals, and that organic foods cultivated without chemicals have a lower risk of health problems. However, Khubchandani said few studies have evaluated the true benefits of organic food.
“The global sales of organic foods now exceed $100 billion,” he said, “and we need to evaluate these foods for their benefits as consumers continue to buy these foods that are usually more expensive.”
In a separate new study, Khubchandani and the research team analyzed data from 1.2 million individuals to understand the connection between drinking sweetened beverages and the risk of cardiovascular disease deaths.
The findings, published in Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research & Reviews, show that consuming eight ounces of a sweetened beverage daily increases the risk of cardiovascular deaths by six percent, and drinking 16 ounces daily increases the risk by 24 percent.
“The health risks of soda and beverage consumption have been well-documented,” Khubchandani said, “but we also wanted to examine the health effects of sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages.”
The study findings also show that drinking of two or more glasses of sugar-sweetened beverages or artificially sweetened beverages increased the risk of cardiovascular disease deaths by 21 percent and 33 percent, respectively.
Khubchandani said excess sugar consumption can cause a variety of health issues, including heart diseases, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and high blood pressure and cholesterol.
“The global sweetened beverage market will soon exceed $1 trillion, and the health effects of these beverages need continuous examination,” he said. “With the global epidemic of obesity and heart disease, policymakers and public health professionals have a responsibility to raise awareness about the health risks of excess sweetened beverage consumption.”
Khubchandani noted that food nutrition labels, awareness campaigns and policy initiatives, such as taxation on beverages, may help people regulate the consumption of sweetened beverages.
“Obesity and unhealthy diet are major risk factors for leading causes of death such as heart disease related deaths,” he said. “Our latest research on popular dietary items such as organic foods and sweetened beverages indicate the need for greater emphasis on prevention.”