Should You Eat Organic? Thoughts on Roundup, mitochondria and gut bacteria.

As you look down the aisles at the grocery store and compare prices of organic versus conventional produce, do you wonder if the benefits of organically grown produce are worth the investment in your food budget?produce signs 72dpi


Some studies are showing that organically grown produce does have a higher nutrient density, or concentration of various vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals.  But why not just take a multivitamin and eat conventional?


I think we have to look at our food in terms of what is in it, and what is not.  Organically grown produce has far less pesticide and herbicide residue.  I specifically want to focus on Roundup and why it is important to stay away from it to improve your health and that of your family.


Roundup is a weedkiller.  US farmers use it to kill weeds, especially on genetically engineered Roundup ready crops like corn, soy, sugar beets, alfalfa, rice, canola, and papaya.  Roundup ready means that Roundup will not kill these crops, just the weeds.  This means less work for the farmers, less weed competition during the growing season, fewer weeds to separate out from the harvest.


Increasingly, Roundup is also sprayed on non-genetically engineered crops like wheat to ripen the seed and prepare it for harvest.  The Roundup kills the plant itself, and as the plant dies, it sends signals to the developing seed to ripen in an attempt to reproduce itself before it is too late.  The farmer also benefits with a head start on next year’s weeds.



What we now know is that Roundup interferes with mitochondrial function.  Mitochondria are tiny organs within our cells that have very important functions:


  • Mitochondria break down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins for energy (ATP) via the Krebs cycle. Dysfunction here can result in chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia.


  • Optimal mitochondrial function is necessary for both appropriate insulin secretion and insulin responsiveness. Insulin is a key hormone in blood sugar regulation.  Insulin dysfunction results in obesity, prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.


  • Mitochondria are important in regulating inflammation. Out of control inflammation is linked to cancer, autoimmune diseases (like Lupus), asthma, allergies, heart disease, neurologic diseases (Alzheimer’s, depression, dementia, Parkinson’s).


  • Mitochondria regulate cell death (apoptosis). If abnormal cells don’t die, they can develop into cancerous tumors.



The active ingredient in Roundup is glyphosate, but the Roundup formula also includes many inert ingredients.  Glyphosate has many actions:


  • Glyphosate is a chelator. That means it binds to and holds on to minerals like manganese and iron, making the minerals unavailable.  This interferes with normal metabolism.  Minerals like manganese and magnesium are critical for normal mitochondrial function.  Iron is necessary not only for making hemoglobin to carry oxygen, but also for normal thyroid hormone production.


  • Glyphosate acts on the shikimate pathway in weeds to kill them. Because animals lack this shikimate pathway, many believe glyphosate is not toxic to humans.  However, this pathway is present in bacteria.  Our intestines are full of beneficial bacteria, necessary for good health, good digestion, and good immune function.  Glyphosate disrupts these beneficial bacteria, allowing fungi, yeast and pathogenic bacteria to overgrow.  This is called dysbiosis, and is related to the development of food sensitivities, allergic and autoimmune disorders, gastrointestinal symptoms, and more.  This same process also happens in the soil, where glyphosate kills beneficial soil-based organisms.


  • Glyphosate interferes with the cytochrome p450 enzymes. In the liver, these enzymes help break down medicines, chemicals and toxins.  Interference with the cytochrome p450 enzymes will increase toxicity of all other chemicals in the body.


  • In the body, glyphosate breaks down into many intermediate chemicals, including glyoxalate. Glyoxalate increases glycation, or the ability of sugar molecules to attach onto various proteins and fats in the body.  When this happens, the glycated (damaged) proteins and fats do not work as effectively, and increase inflammation.



The inert ingredients are part of the Roundup formula to increase glyphosate toxicity.  These are chemical soaps (surfactants) to help glyphosate penetrate cells, but they also improve glyphosate penetration into the mitochondria where it can cause more damage.



How can you avoid glyphosate exposure?


  1. Eat organic!  Organically grown produce is free of Roundup.  One study showed that after just one week of eating organic produce, pesticide residues dropped by 90%.


  1. Don’t use Roundup around your house. Although Roundup works great on wiregrass in my garden beds, I now refuse to use it.


  1. Eat well! A Mediterranean or Paleo Mediterranean diet with lots of colorful vegetables, healthy fats, and reasonable protein intake is ideal.  Supplementing with a high potency multivitamin/multimineral provides extra insurance.  A diet low in carbohydrates (especially processed carbohydrates) improves mitochondrial function.


  1. Consistent, low to moderate intensity exercise is great for the mitochondria. Sweating is one way to help the body eliminate toxins.  However, I don’t recommend long periods of high intensity cardio; this puts a lot of demand on the mitochondria.


  1. Supplements like Coenzyme Q10 and N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) are great for the mitochondria, and chlorella can help detoxify dioxins. Talk with your doctor about whether these are right for you.


To your health,


Patty Powers, MD