Creepy chemicals in your food may be making you sick

"Is buying organic worth it?"

It's a question I get asked a lot. My answer is simple: "Yes, absolutely."

But, you're a Guide to Good Health reader, so I'm guessing a simple yes is not nearly good enough. You want to know why.

Well hold on to your hat, and take a seat while you're at it. We'll start with a hidden ingredient in the mainstream food supply that's been linked to serious, and in some cases even potentially deadly, diseases.

It's the factory-farming mainstay, pesticides.

These nasty chemicals are liberally sprayed on our foods ending up in them, the environment, and, ultimately, us.

And the results can be devastating.

Pesticides raise your risk of disease

Exposure to some of these creepy chemicals can cause your risk of Alzheimer's disease to climb. And that climb isn't small. According to one Duke University study, repeated exposure to organophosphate pesticides may cause your risk for Alzheimer's disease to shoot up by a staggering 53 percent.

This alone should have you reaching for the organics when you're in the produce aisle. But, sadly, it's far from the only reason.

Pesticides have been associated with allergies, tumors, insulin resistance, and even lower IQ's.

Plus, the link between pesticides and Parkinson's disease has been building for years. Studies have already connected some common pesticides...including paraquat, maneb, and ziram...to increases in the disease. According to researchers at UCLA, exposure to all three can increase your risk for the disease threefold over those with less exposure.

And now the UCLA research team has uncovered yet more proof of that link. In their most recent study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, the researchers took a closer look at the pesticide benomyl. They confirmed that the chemical damages or destroys dopaminergic neurons, starting the cascade of events that leads to Parkinson's.

In another new study, a team of researchers from the University of Granada in Spain revealed a link between the pesticide DDT and type-2 diabetes.

People exposed to higher concentrations of DDE...a component of DDT... are four times more likely to develop type-2 diabetes, according to the study published in the journal Environmental Research.

And the latest pesticide news is enough to literally turn your stomach. According to a new study published in the International Journal of Food Microbiology, the application of pesticides is a likely source of the nasty norovirus.

Now you may not know the norovirus by name, but if you've ever suffered through a winter stomach flu... complete with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea... you sure know the virus's terrible stomach-wrenching effects.

Factory farm foods spell trouble

If a skyrocketing risk for everything from Alzheimer's disease to the norovirus isn't enough to get you to change your shopping habits, there are still a few more good reasons buying organic is worth it, starting with those pesky pesticides again.

The pesticides used in our food crops aren't only harming us. Wildlife is being exposed to the same toxic soup with troubling consequences....from reproductive problems in birds to a dangerous decline in the bee population.

Runoff from factory farms exposes marine life to these chemicals, including the fish that could end up on your dinner table tomorrow. The average person's levels of the pesticides DDT, dieldrin, and chlordane exceed "acceptable limits" in large part because of the contaminated seafood we eat, according to a study in Environmental Research. (Although in my book anything above zero should be unacceptable.)

And these chemicals have staying power.

Remember the pesticide benomyl that I mentioned a little earlier? Benomyl's maker, Dupont, pulled it off the market more than 10 years ago (after the EPA found that the chemical may be linked to cancer, liver toxicity, birth defects, and reproduction problems), but its effects are still being felt.

You can add to that already towering mountain of negatives that the careless over-farming that's practiced on most factory farms robs the soil of vital nutrients. And it doesn't take a genius to figure out that fruits and veggies grown in barren soil will end up tasteless and low in important vitamins and minerals.

Sure, organic produce isn't perfect. But it's pretty darn good, and a heck of a lot better than the alternative. For my money, buying organic is worth it.

However, in these economic times, I understand that making a dollar stretch as far as possible is important. So, for a list of fruits and veggies that you should always buy organic, check out the "Dirty Dozen" list compiled by our friends over at the Environmental Working Group.