Background: Numerous studies have shown that occupational or environmental pesticide exposure can affect male fertility. There is less evidence, however, regarding any potentially adverse effects of pesticide residues in foods on markers of male fertility potential.
Objectives: We examined the relations between fruit and vegetable intake, considering pesticide residue status, and semen quality and serum concentrations of reproductive hormones in healthy young men.
Methods: The Rochester Young Men's Study is a cross-sectional study that recruited men aged 18-22 y (n = 189) in Rochester, New York. Participants completed a questionnaire, provided a semen sample, had a blood sample drawn, and underwent a physical examination at enrollment. Semen samples were analyzed for total sperm count, sperm concentration, morphology, motility, ejaculate volume, total motile count, and total normal count. Dietary intake during the previous year was assessed by a validated food-frequency questionnaire. Fruit and vegetables were categorized as having high [Pesticide Residue Burden Score (PRBS) ≥4] or low-to-moderate (PRBS <4) pesticide residues on the basis of data from the USDA Pesticide Data Program. Linear regression models were used to analyze the associations of fruit and vegetable intake with semen variables and reproductive hormones while adjusting for potential confounding factors.
Results: The total intake of fruit and vegetables was unrelated to semen quality. However, the intake of fruit and vegetables with low-to-moderate pesticide residues was associated with a higher total sperm count and sperm concentration, whereas the intake of fruit and vegetables with high pesticide residues was unrelated to semen quality. On average, men in the highest quartile of low-to-moderate-pesticide fruit and vegetable intake (≥2.8 servings/d) had a 169% (95% CI: 45%, 400%) higher total sperm count and a 173% (95% CI: 57%, 375%) higher sperm concentration than did men in the lowest quartile (<1.1 servings/d; P-trend = 0.003 and 0.0005, respectively). The intake of fruit and vegetables, regardless of pesticide-residue status, was not associated with reproductive hormone concentrations.
Conclusions: The consumption of fruit and vegetables with low-to-moderate pesticide residues was positively related to sperm counts in young men unselected by fertility status. This suggests that pesticide residues may modify the beneficial effects of fruit and vegetable intake on semen quality.
Keywords: diet; fruit and vegetables; pesticides; reproductive hormones; semen quality.
© 2016 American Society for Nutrition.