Pesticides plunder semen

Motivation is a funny thing. Where you once found it difficult to do the exercise you know you should do, the sudden realisation that you can’t fit into that favourite piece of clothing that you want to wear to a wedding in two months has you frequenting the gym, yoga studio, and swimming pool on a daily basis. When we really want to, we can achieve amazing things. Perhaps then this may be the story that will provide the motivation for many wavering men to go organic when they realise the impact that pesticides may be having on their little swimmers, otherwise known as sperm.

The new study involved men attending a fertility centre between 2007 and 2012. The men were aged 18 to 55 and the all completed questionnaires as to their food intake, specifically the researchers were looking to see how many portions of fruit and vegetables they were consuming daily. The fruit and vegetables were classified according to how much pesticide they typically carry when they are not organically grown. So for instance, foods high in pesticide residues included strawberries, spinach, capsicum, apples, and pears. Foods low in pesticides included peas, beans, grapefruit, and onions.

Based on their food consumption the men were divided into groups reflecting their pesticide consumption. Semen and sperm quality were then compared to pesticide intake.

It emerged that men with the highest intake of pesticide heavy fruit and vegetables had an average total sperm count of 86 million sperm per ejaculate while men who had the lowest intake of pesticides had an average sperm count of 171 million per ejaculate. That suggests a 49 per cent reduction in sperm count due to pesticide exposure. Additionally, the percentage of normally formed sperm was 7.5 per cent in the men with the lowest intake while the men with the highest pesticide intake averaged 5.1 per cent normal sperm.

These Harvard researchers say this is enough to suggest that exposure to pesticides through food can affect sperm production in humans. They also stress that it doesn’t mean that men shouldn’t eat fruit and vegetables, but that they should avoid pesticides.

So hmmm, how can you comfortably get your nutritional fruit and vegetables without worrying about pesticides? Oh, yes! Organics! Maybe that’s why they are called organ-ics?

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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