Eating fruits and vegetables with high pesticide residues linked with poor semen quality

Pesticides on Vegetables and Fruit Linked to Lower Sperm Counts

fruits image
This is the first study to look at the connection between exposure to pesticide residues from fruits and vegetables and semen quality. Image by Christian Ostrosky.

2015 Study Abstract

Is consumption of fruits and vegetables with high levels of pesticide residues associated with lower semen quality?
Consumption of fruits and vegetables with high levels of pesticide residues was associated with a lower total sperm count and a lower percentage of morphologically normal sperm among men presenting to a fertility clinic.

WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY
Occupational and environmental exposure to pesticides is associated with lower semen quality. Whether the same is true for exposure through diet is unknown.

STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION
Men enrolled in the Environment and Reproductive Health (EARTH) Study, an ongoing prospective cohort at an academic medical fertility center. Male partners (n = 155) in subfertile couples provided 338 semen samples during 2007–2012.

PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS
Semen samples were collected over an 18-month period following diet assessment. Sperm concentration and motility were evaluated by computer-aided semen analysis (CASA). Fruits and vegetables were categorized as containing high or low-to-moderate pesticide residues based on data from the annual United States Department of Agriculture Pesticide Data Program. Linear mixed models were used to analyze the association of fruit and vegetable intake with sperm parameters accounting for within-person correlations across repeat samples while adjusting for potential confounders.

MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE
Total fruit and vegetable intake was unrelated to semen quality parameters. High pesticide residue fruit and vegetable intake, however, was associated with poorer semen quality. On average, men in highest quartile of high pesticide residue fruit and vegetable intake (≥1.5 servings/day) had 49% (95% confidence interval (CI): 31%, 63%) lower total sperm count and 32% (95% CI: 7%, 58%) lower percentage of morphologically normal sperm than men in the lowest quartile of intake (

LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION
Surveillance data, rather than individual pesticide assessment, was used to assess the pesticide residue status of fruits and vegetables. CASA is a useful method for clinical evaluation but may be considered less favorable for accurate semen analysis in the research setting. Owing to the observational nature of the study, confirmation is required by interventional studies as well.

WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS
To our knowledge, this is the first report on the consumption of fruits and vegetables with high levels of pesticide residue in relation to semen quality. Further confirmation of these findings is warranted.

Sources and more information
  • Eating fruits and vegetables with high pesticide residues linked with poor semen quality, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, March 30, 2015.
  • Fruit and vegetable intake and their pesticide residues in relation to semen quality among men from a fertility clinic, Oxford Journals, 10.1093/humrep/dev064, March 30, 2015.
  • Pesticides on Vegetables and Fruit Linked to Lower Sperm Counts, newsweek, 3/31/15.
  • A Diet High in Pesticides Is Linked to a Lower Sperm Count, time, March 30, 2015.

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