To improve male fertility, Eat Organic

To improve Male Fertility , Eat Organic


Takeaway First

A new study published in the Journal Human Reproduction found 50 % lower sperm counts and 32% lower normal looking sperm cells in those who eat fruits and vegetables high in pesticides.

Study Details

  • 155 men ages 18 – 55 studied in a fertility center as part of the ongoing, prospective “Environment and Reproductive Health” (EARTH) Study.
  • A food frequency questionnaire was used to assess how often fruits and vegetables were consumed
  • Those that had high residues included peppers, spinach, strawberries, apples and pears.
  • The group of men who ate the most pesticide-heavy fruit and vegetables had an average total sperm count of 86 million sperm per ejaculate, 49% less than men eating the least who averaged 171 million sperm per ejaculate.
  • The percentage of normally formed sperm was an average of 7.5% in men in the group with the lowest intake and 5.1% in the men with the highest intake — a relative decrease of 32%.
  • A significant trend of normal shaped sperm cells were noticed among men who consumed the most fruit and vegetables with low pesticide residues.

My Take on Pesticides and Male Infertility

Pesticides are used in agriculture and public health to control insects, weeds, animals, and vectors of disease. Pesticides affect sperm formation (spermatogenesis) by changing the structure or sperms cell move or destroying where the cells that produce called the sertoli cells. Other pesticides are endocrine disruptors. An endocrine-disrupting chemical is defined as an exogenous agent that interferes with the function of hormones in the body. Types of pesticide use are different in every country. In the USA those used on fruit and vegetables include Atrazine, Malathion, Chlorpyrifos and Carbendazim all linked to numerous Atrazine – one study showed male frogs turn into females upon exposure (Hayes et al. 2013) Femization of other amphibeans have been reported upon atrazine exposure – Malathion – cause thyroid problems and even cancer according to the National Pesticide Information Center Chlorpyrifos – increase the risk of lung cancer (Lee et al. 2004) Carbendazim is a fungicide that has shown male reproductive abnormalities in rats. Here is the reference.  Interestingly, selenium, a favorite micronutrient of mine,  ameliorates the toxic impact of carbendazim may be because of its antioxidant activity, at least in one study.

What Should You Do?

Eat organic fruits and vegetables. Yes, I know it is more expensive, an additional cost of anywhere from $0.13 to $0.36 more per pound to be exact, but it is worth it. Eating local foods is even better as they are freshly picked and often sprayed with little or no pesticides, although you will not see an USDA organic label on their produce. Create a food budget for yourself and for your family, and be serious about it. Be as diligent with your food budget as you are about your mortgage and car bills.

In other words, once you have food health budget in place then other discretionary expenses come after that so in case you run out of cash, your health and that of your family don’t take a nosedive. If you still have a hard time eating organic on a budget, purchase the following foods organically. They are rated the highest in pesticides according to the Enviornmental Working Group.

  • Apples
  • Peaches
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Grapes (imported)
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Potatoes

Lastly, the message here should resonate with all of us, not only to fertile men. While I cannot conclusively prove pesticides cause cancer, I strongly suspect that such chemicals are a major contributor. Buy well.

References: Y.H. Chiu et al. Fruit and vegetable intake and their pesticide residues in relation to semen quality among men from a fertility clinic. Human Reproduction, 2015 Roeleveld N, Bretveld R. The impact of pesticides on male fertility. Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol. 2008 Jun;20(3):229-33

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