Pesticide residue on produce tied to infertility

November 2, 2017 in Nutrition Topics in the News, Pregnancy and Breastfeeding, Women's Health

Pesticide residue on produce tied to infertility

Women who eat more fruits and vegetables with high levels of pesticide residues may be less likely to get pregnant than women whose diets don’t eat much pesticide containing produce, a U.S. study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston suggests. 

Researchers examined data on eating habits and pregnancy outcomes for 325 women who went through a total of 541 cycles of fertility treatments at a clinic in Boston. Overall, 228 of the fertility treatment cycles resulted in a live birth. 

Researchers ranked their pesticide residue exposure from fruits and veggies into five groups, from lowest to highest. 

Compared with women who ate the lowest amounts of fruits and vegetables with high levels of pesticide residue – less than one serving a day – women who ate the highest amounts of these foods – more than two servings a day – were 18 percent less likely to have a baby. 

Related: Baking soda + water best for washing pesticides off apples

“It’s already known that women occupationally exposed to pesticides and women exposed to pesticides used in agriculture because they live near agricultural production areas have a greater risk of infertility, pregnancy loss and other adverse reproductive outcomes.

This study, though, is the first to show that exposure to low doses of pesticide residues, such as those achieved by consuming conventionally grown fruits and vegetables, may also have adverse health effects.

Higher intakes of produce with high pesticide residue tied to increased miscarriage risk

Women in the study were 35 years old on average. Most were white and had at least a college education. They all underwent fertility treatments between 2007 and 2016. 

There didn’t appear to be a problem with fertilization or embryos implanting in the uterus based on what women ate, but eating more fruits and vegetables with high levels of pesticide residue was associated with an increased risk of miscarriages early in pregnancy. 

The researchers estimated that replacing one daily serving of fruits and veggies with high levels of pesticide residue with different, lower-pesticide options could increase the odds of pregnancy by 79 percent and the chances of a live birth by 88 percent.

Produce with higher and lower pesticide residues

Foods with high levels of pesticide residue can include apples, kale, strawberries and raw spinach. Low-pesticide produce includes avocados, corn and bananas. 

Washing produce won’t reduce pesticide exposure, the researchers said. But buying organic fruits and vegetables makes sense for foods that typically have high levels of pesticide residue.

One limitation of the study is that the researchers relied on women to accurately recall and

In the meantime, women can take steps to avoid pesticide exposure, which includes eating organic as much as possible, and washing fruits and vegetables.

Source:  JAMA Internal Medicine, online October 30, 2017.

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