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For Men, Eating More Fruits and Vegetables Improves Sperm Function in IVF, but Consumption of Pesticide Residues Harm Sperm

October 20 , 2014
by: ASRM Office of Public Affairs
Published in ASRM Press Release

Honolulu, Hawaii- Today, at the 70th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and Massachusetts General Hospital present their findings that the consumption fruits and vegetables with high levels of pesticide residue can affect sperm quality, while IVF fertilization rates are better for those men consuming more fruits and vegetables over all. 

In a prospective cohort study, 155 men seen at the Massachusetts General Hospital fertility center between April 2007 and June 2012 completed a food frequency questionnaire. The different fruits and vegetables reported in their diets were noted for having high or low pesticide residue based on USDA reports.  Each participant’s intake of pesticide residues was calculated and the range of intake was divided into quartiles.

The men’s total intake of fruits and vegetables (FVs) and of low-residue FVs was found to be unrelated to semen quality, but men in the top quartile of high-residue FV consumption had a 70% lower motile sperm count and 64% lower number of normally-shaped sperm than men in the lowest quartile of high-residue FV consumption.

When 105 of the participants and their partners were treated with IVF, the researchers found that those who had a greater total fruit and vegetable intake- which included more low-residue FVs- had better fertilization rates with conventional insemination, but not with ICSI.

Paul J. Turek, MD, FACS, President of the Society for Male Reproduction and Infertility, remarked, “Men who want to optimize their reproductive health need to take care take care to choose fruits and vegetables grown with lower levels of pesticides, which are less contaminated.  Nutrition is important to good reproductive health, but food that is good for you can contain other substances, not so good for you.”  

O-20 YH Chiu et al, “Fruit and Vegetable Intake and Their Pesticide Residues in Relation to Semen Quality and Fertilization Rates Among Subfertile Men” 

Related:  Vegetarian Men Have Reduced Sperm Density and Motility Compared to Non-Vegetarians

Researchers from Loma Linda University School of Medicine in California have found that vegetarians have significantly poorer sperm concentration and motility than non-vegetarians.  In a retrospective study, results from semen analyses conducted between 2009 and 2013 on 26 vegetarians, 5 vegans, and 443 non-vegetarians were compared.  Vegetarians had significantly lower average sperm concentrations(51 million/milliliter vs. 70 million/milliliter) than the non-vegetarians and lower average sperm motility (33% vs. 58%), however their results were not classified in the infertile range.  Vegans’ results were similar to vegetarians.  There was no difference in sperm progression or the results of sperm function and DNA integrity tests between the groups.  All the groups’ sperm morphology fell into the normal range.  While more research is needed, the researchers postulate that estrogenic compounds and/or chemical residues in the vegetarians’ diets could be a cause for poorer sperm parameters.

P-408 EM Orzylowska et al, “Decreased Sperm Concentration and Motility in a Subpopulation of Vegetarian Males at a Designated Blue Zone Geographic Region” 


The American Society for Reproductive Medicine, founded in 1944, is an organization of more than 7,000 physicians, researchers, nurses, technicians and other professionals dedicated to advancing knowledge and expertise in reproductive biology.  Affiliated societies include the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, the Society for Male Reproduction and Urology, the Society for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, the Society of Reproductive Surgeons and the Society of Reproductive Biologists and Technologists. 

For more information on these press releases, contact: 

J. Benjamin Younger Office of Public Affairs
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Washington, DC 20024-2188
Tel: (202) 863-2494/Fax: (202) 484-4039


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