Study looks at the relationship between choosing organic food and other health behaviours

BioMed Central recently published a study by Norwegian researchers on the consumption of organic food during pregnancy in a sample of 63,561 women. The researchers wanted to look at whether eating organic food, often considered a marker of “healthy eating” and other positive health behaviors, was connected with particular lifestyle factors or socio-demographic characteristics. One of the factors they looked at was the relationship between eating organic food and consuming alcohol during pregnancy.

Overall, they found that 1 in 10 women consumed organic food regularly during pregnancy and that 88.4% of women stopped drinking alcohol completely. When they looked at various associations, they found some interesting patterns. Most women who consumed organic food:

  • were either under 25 or over 40 years old
  • exercised regularly – usually at least three times a week
  • were either in the group with more than four years of higher education or in the group with less than 12 years of education
  • were considered to be in a low-income family

When it came to alcohol, women who consumed organic food tended to have higher rates of alcohol consumption. 11% of organic consumers drank alcohol during pregnancy (interestingly, 8% smoked during pregnancy).  The authors comment: “Organic food consumption in pregnancy is not unambiguously associated with what is perceived as a healthy lifestyle. It is also not uniquely associated with the group that traditionally is most healthy — those with the highest education and income. This shows that it is important to take into account other factors besides education and income in the further research of possible health effects of organic foods in the diet.” 

According to market information from the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada, retail sales organic food in 2003 was estimated at US$ 750-1,000 million and Canada is ranked as the sixth largest market in the world for organic food and beverages. 18% of Canadian organic consumers can be considered “heavy buyers,” 22% can be considered “light buyers” and 31% have bought organic foods once or twice.


Torjusen, H., Brantsaeter, A.L., Haugen, M., Lieblein, G., Stigum, H., Roos, G., Holmboe-Otteson, G., Meltzer, H.M. (2010). Characteristics associated with organic food consumption during pregnancy; data from a large cohort of pregnant women in Norway. BMC Public Health, 10: 775. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-775