Can fruit and vegetables cause health problems?

We all know about the benefits of fresh or cooked fruit and vegetables and we are aware of the 5 a day recommendation, even though most of us can’t really stick to this dietary requirement. In the era of fast and convenient food, healthy and organic produce have become a niche market and this sort of lifestyle is taking its toll.

However, two studies that appeared last year have shown that it’s not about eating enormous amounts of fruit and vegetables – or better said, it’s not about eating produce that may be full of pesticides.

The first study was performed between April 2007 and June 2012, in the Massachusetts General Hospital. The researchers observed how high intake of fruit and vegetables affects sperm quality. Over 150 men filled out a questionnaire about how often they eat different kinds of food. The researchers then classified fruits and vegetables present in their nutrition according to the pesticide residue levels. After each participant’s pesticide residue level was calculated, the researchers made some interesting discoveries.

The total intake of fruit and vegetables didn’t seem to have a significant impact on sperm quality, as long as the pesticide residue level was low. However, men who were eating fruit and vegetables high in pesticides showed 70% decrease in sperm motility and 64% less normally shaped sperm compared to men who were exposed to significantly less pesticides.

However, once the study participants and their partners were treated with IVF, the men who ate more fruit and vegetables in total, with low levels of pesticides, had better success rates with conventional insemination. This effect was not observed in the ICSI process.

The second study was performed between 2009 and 2013 at the University School of Medicine in California. In this study semen samples were collected from 26 vegetarians, 5 vegans and 443 non-vegetarians. The sperm analysis showed that vegetarians and vegans had significantly lower sperm concentration, as well as lower sperm motility (33%) compared to the non-vegetarians.

The samples didn’t show significant differences in sperm progression, function, DNA integrity or morphology between men of all three groups. This effect may be due to the high exposure to chemical residues in the vegetarian and vegan group, although further research is needed.

It’s important to remember that the findings of these two studies are showing us two main points – nutrition rich in fresh, organic produce that provide your body with a sufficient amount of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants improves your immune system, heart and blood vessels, your energy levels, skin and hair. However, you need to make sure that the fruit and vegetables you’re eating are the least contaminated as possible. Choose the produce that is grown with very little if any pesticides in order to give your body a balanced nutrition and optimise your reproductive health.

Photo credit: markus spiske / Foter / CC BY


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