A recent study is showing that pesticide contaminants found in produce is having a negative effect on male fertility. The study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston says that the pesticide left over on some fruits and veggies is lowering sperm counts.
For the study, researchers used the USDA Pesticide Data Program to determine which out of over 30 different types of fruits and vegetables had the most pesticide residue, and then categorized them for test subjects. Produce with higher pesticide exposure included apples, potatoes, spinach, blueberries, strawberries and peppers. Foods with lower levels of pesticides included peas, onions, avocados, beans, and grapefruit.
Researchers examined over 300 different semen samples from males with varying age groups, habits, and diet over a five year period. They found that normal diets with balanced fruit/vegetable intake had no noticeable effect on sperm count, and that eating more helpings of produce with the least amount of pesticide residue could actually help improve fertility.
However when participants ate more servings fruits and vegetables in the high pesticide category, their sperm counts were decreased up to 49%, and the morphology of sperm, or the size, and shape was 32% more abnormal or deformed.
The study reads:
“Total fruit and vegetable intake was not associated with semen quality (Table II). There were, however, inverse relations between intake of high pesticide residue fruits and vegetables and semen quality (Table III). On average, men in the highest quartile of high pesticide residue fruits and vegetables had 49% (95% CI: 31, 63) lower total sperm count, 32% (95% CI: 7, 58) fewer morphologically normal sperm and 29% (95% CI: 7, 52) lower ejaculate volume than men in the lowest quartile of intake.
Furthermore, intake of high pesticide fruits and vegetables was associated with a significantly lower total motile count (P = 0.003) and lower total normal count (P = 0.003) (Fig. 1). On the other hand, there was a significant linear trend towards increasing percentage with morphologically normal sperm with higher intakes of low-to-moderate pesticide residue fruits and vegetables (P, trend = 0.04) (Table III). Intake of low-to-moderate pesticide residue fruits and vegetables was unrelated to other semen quality parameters.”
The pesticide contaminants in the food and water supply are one of the many ways that fertility is being compromised in males and females. These toxins often can have an effect on the hormones and cause irregularity in the overall reproductive health and potency of many individuals.
The study says that varying factors may have also had an effect on the results, such as smoking, BMI, and age. They also did not examine the individual amount of pesticide exposure per basis, but used the PDP report data to estimate which foods would be more contaminated. They dont suggest that people should stop eating fruits and vegetables, but that they should be aware of pesticide contamination in their produce and try to limit exposure as much as possible.
Our solution: eat organic produce and check out this list of most contaminated and cleanest produce.
Though regular exposure to pesticides through the environment has been studied and shown to have negative effects on health, pesticide exposure from food had not been heavily researched. This is one of the first of hopefully many studies hoping to show some of the effects pesticides can have on human health.