Poor Semen Quality Linked to High-Pesticide Produce
A healthy diet – one including a lot of fruits and vegetables – is great for fertility. But, according to a recent study, men who eat fruits and vegetables with high pesticide levels (including foods such as strawberries, spinach, and peppers) have a lower sperm count as well as a lower percentage of normal sperm than men who ate produce with lower levels.
With samples from a fertility clinic, researchers studied sperm samples from men (ages 18 to 55) between 2007 and 2012 who were having trouble conceiving. Researchers also asked men about the food they ate – the quantity and amounts of particular fruits and vegetables – and compared answers to data on average pesticide residue in these foods. Specifically, these men had a 49% lower sperm count and a 32% lower percentage of normal sperm.
“Given that pesticides are designed to kill and harm pest reproduction, it is not surprising that they are harmful to human reproduction”, said Dr. Hagai Levine of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York and the Hebrew University-Hadassah in Jerusalem, who coauthored an editorial published with the findings.
Previous studies found a correlation between men who work near such pesticides (such as farmers) also have lower sperm quality, but this is the first study to analyze the effect of consumption of pesticides.
Study limitations included the fact that men studied were in a fertility clinic already, and already had semen quality problems. It’s unclear if the same results would have presented themselves if the general population were studied. The men who were studied only answered questions about their diet once – and diet may have changed over time.
This does not mean that men should swear off fruits and vegetables altogether – they are still healthy, after all. Men should try, particularly if they are trying to conceive, to avoid pesticide residues by going organic or avoiding fruits and vegetables that have large amount of pesticide residues – such as peppers, spinach, strawberries, apples, and pears. Washing fruits and vegetables won’t always remove pesticides, as they are often absorbed into the food.