How do pesticide residues in food affect semen quality?

 “Fruit and vegetables with high levels of pesticide residues are associated with a lower total sperm count, a lower percentage of morphologically normal sperm and a decreased volume of ejaculate among men presenting to a fertility clinic.”

These are the conclusions drawn from a study carried out by Chiu et al., and published in Human Reproduction in 2015. It is the first study to deal with the relationship between the presence of pesticides in food and sperm quality, others only having evaluated the presence of environmental or work related pesticides (occupational contamination).


Over a five-year period, 338 semen samples were collected from 155 men. Diet parameters were collected through a validated questionnaire and they were divided into two groups: the first with high levels of pesticides residues and the other with low or moderate levels. Each group had four subgroups according to the quantity of fruit and vegetables consumed.

The most significant results include:

Firstly, in general terms, if we do not take into account pesticide residues, fruit and vegetable intake does not affect semen quality parameters. In the group with high levels of residues, it was observed that the more that was eaten, the worse the sperm count, morphology and volume of the ejaculate, became, decreasing the count by up to 50% in those patients with the highest consumption from this group. In the group with low or moderate levels of pesticide residues, a trend towards an improvement in sperm morphology was observed in relation to the amount consumed.

The authors criticise the lack of clinical studies in this area and recommend further research to establish if there is a difference between organic food and that which is cultivated conventionally; however, they acknowledge that it is difficult to undertake diet-based studies given the great variability between individuals and the enormous variety of products and sources.

In conclusion, according to these results, the levels of pesticide residues in fruit and vegetables appears to affect sperm quality. We should therefore ask whether the same happens with female fertility.

You can read the full article at:

Posted in Assisted Reproduction, Fertility

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *