The Conversation

Your weekly dose of evidence

It seems like every other week we're told something increases or decreases our risk of cancer; it's easy to turn off and ignore these headlines. But a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine this week caught our attention. It found people who consumed more organic foods had lower rates of cancer – particular, lymphoma and postmenopausal breast cancer.

We asked nutrition expert Rosemary Stanton to explain the research and help us interpret the findings. The problem is, she says, people who consume more organic foods are healthier, wealthier and better educated, all factors known to impact the risk of cancer. So it's impossible to tell if the absence of pesticides caused the decreased risk, or healthier lifestyles.

But there's good evidence to show that eating plenty of fruit, vegetables and whole grains – however they’re grown – can decrease your risk of cancer.

Fron Jackson-Webb

Deputy Editor/Senior Health + Medicine Editor

The science isn’t clear on whether organic foods can lower your risk of cancer. But eating plenty of fruit and veg – however it’s grown – can reduce your risk.

Research Check: can you cut your cancer risk by eating organic?

Rosemary Stanton, UNSW

The participants who chose more organically grown foods over 4.5 years had slightly lower rates of cancer. But it doesn't necessarily mean one thing caused the other.

Far too much of Australians’ diet comes from foods that have virtually no nutrients. from

Three charts on: how and what Australians eat (hint: it’s not good)

Rebecca Golley, Flinders University

A report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows we're eating less junk food than before, but still far too much.

You might lose weight in the short term but fad diets are impossible to sustain. saltodemata/shutterstock

Blood type, Pioppi, gluten-free and Mediterranean – which popular diets are fads?

Clare Collins, University of Newcastle; Lee Ashton, University of Newcastle; Rebecca Williams, University of Newcastle

Diets that promise drastic results with minimal effort, or that ban whole food groups, should ring alarm bells.

From the archives

Interactive body map: what really gives you cancer?

Emil Jeyaratnam, The Conversation; Sasha Petrova, The Conversation

This body map brings together evidence on proven cancer causes. Using credible, scientific sources it answers questions about whether alcohol, red meat or sun exposure increase your cancer risk.

Organic, grass fed and hormone-free: does this make red meat any healthier?

Leah Dowling, Swinburne University of Technology; Louise Dunn, Swinburne University of Technology

Farming methods may have a small impact on the nutritional profile of some red meats, but it's unlikely to make a difference to our health.

Aged care reform

Social connections help retain a sense of purpose in older age. from

What is ‘quality’ in aged care? Here’s what studies (and our readers) say

Joseph Ibrahim, Monash University

The Conversation asked readers how they would want a loved one to be cared for in a residential aged care facility. What they said was similar to what surveys around the world have consistently found.

Around 60% of aged care residents require more than four hours of care per day. Shutterstock

Want to improve care in nursing homes? Mandate minimum staffing levels

Julie Henderson, Flinders University; Eileen Willis, Flinders University

The biggest system failure in aged care is staffing. We don't need to wait until the royal commission is over to fix it – this can be done now.

Expert answers to serious, weird and wacky questions

Curious Kids: why do leaves change colour?

Giles Johnson, University of Manchester

Dropping leaves might seem like a waste, but plants are actually saving nutrients.

Health Check: how much physical activity is enough in older age?

Anne Tiedemann, University of Sydney; Cathie Sherrington, University of Sydney

It's never too late to start exercising, and age isn't a reason to stop either.

Curious Kids: Why do flies vomit on their food?

David Yeates, CSIRO; Bryan Lessard, CSIRO

Bush flies and blowflies all vomit on their food, but other flies are a little more polite at the dinner table and don’t vomit at all.

Curious Kids: Why is a magpie’s poo black and white?

Gisela Kaplan, University of New England

Like reptiles, birds do not have two separate exits from the body. They have one, called the cloaca. It is quite similar to the human anus but the cloaca expels both indigestible bits and toxins.

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