Monthly Archives: March 2015

Pesticides and Infertility, ADHD and Obesity

Pesticides on fruits and vegetables have been linked with lower sperm counts and infertility in men. This is a headline, which has reached most newspapers and medical websites this morning.

The original article was posted in the Journal of Human Reproduction last month. The main outcome showed that men who consumed significant amounts of fruits and vegetables with high pesticide concentrations had on average a 50% lower sperm counts and 32% of their existing sperm was deformed.

The alarming aspect of this study is in the details. This study looked at 155 men, who were being seen in a fertility clinic. The men with the lowered sperm counts and deformed sperm were considered to be eating a high amount of pesticides from fruit/vegetable intake. High intake was considered o be 1 ½ servings per day!!!!!

This translates into 1/2 cup of berries and one small apple, or perhaps a spinach salad at a restaurant. I think it is safe to say that many Americans are trying to maintain a healthy diet and weight. In the process of doing this they are focusing on fruits and vegetables. With this in mind if we are not eating organically, we are likely increasing our body burden of these chemicals, which have multiple effects beyond fertility.

In 2010 there was another study published in the journal, Pediatrics by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health. This was a larger study with 1,139 participants. These participants were children aged 8-15. It was found that 10% of these children, the ones who were also diagnosed with ADHD had significantly higher levels of pesticide byproducts. This article linked ADHD with pesticide exposure. In this study there was no geographical, environmental reason for the 10% of children to be exposed to pesticides, beyond those that they were consuming in food.

A third study published in the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health linked paradichlorobenzene a fumigant pesticide with obesity in adults in 2014. Many more articles link diabetes to pesticides in our environment. These pesticides have even been given a new label “diabesogens”.

When we vote, we are given the opportunity to exercise our freedom to choose the persons who will represent us. Many people do not realize that when we shop, we are voting financially. The best and loudest way to make changes in our food supply is by voting with our dollar. Shop wisely, purchase organic products and learn about the food that you are eating.

What can you do to limit pesticide exposure?

1. Shop for organic foods and non-genetically modified as they will have less pesticides and herbicides sprayed on them.

2. Go to and support organizations like the Environmental Working Group at www.EWG.org. The EWG provides plenty of advice on shopping for clean produce.

3. Consider starting your own backyard garden. It is a great activity for the whole family.

4. Consider joining an organic community shared agriculture like Spiral Path Farms in Central Pennsylvania.

5. Buy local produce, less chemicals are needed to store these products while they are being shipped.

DATEM

My daughter recently received a popular lunchbox treat for participating in an athletic event. When I looked closely at the label what seemed like a simpler treat on the outside was quite revealing. First look at the ingredient list below and note how many ingredients there are.

Ingredients: Toasted rice cereal(Rice, sugar, salt, malt flavoring, niacinamide, reduced iron, riboflavin (Vitamin B2, Folic acid), Marshmallow(Corn syrup, sugar, gelatin, natural and artificial flavor, Fructose, Margarine(Vegetable oil(Soybean and palm oil with TBHQ for freshness, water, Natural and artificial butter flavor(Contains milk), DATEM, Acetylated monoglycerides BHT for freshness, vitamin A palmitate, Vitamin D, Corn syrup solids, contains two percent or less of Dextrose, glycerine, salt, niacin amide, pyridoxine, hydrochloride(Vitamin B6), Thiamin hydrochloride(Vitamin B1), Riboflavin(Vitamin B2), Soy lecithin.

There was an intriguing ingredient, that I had never heard of. Mostly, because I shop on the perimeter of the grocery store and rarely purchase processed snack food when I go shopping. DATEM seems like a benign name, is it related to Dates?

Here is what I found in Bakerpedia. The description of DATEM on most sites including foodchemicaladditives.com were consistent in their description of what DATEM is.

DATEM Diacetyl Tartaric Esters of Monoglycerides
From Bakerpedia.com

Definition
An emulsifier used in bread making to strengthen the dough during processing.

Origin
Chemically synthesized from soybean oil.

Function
Though not completely understood, it functions at the air/water interface within gluten proteins and flour lipids to improve gas holding capacity of the dough. This provides for a stronger dough that can be processed in a high stress system, and a finer crumb grain with higher bread volume, as a result of this system.

Composition
DATEM is made by reacting diacetyl tartaric anhydride with mono- and diglycerides resulting in the above structure.

The above description is a lot of chemistry for me. On a less complex note, I do know a little bit about mono and diglycerides. These substances are manufactured fats and contain trans fats as a result of the processing.

As mono and diglycerides only have one and two branches, unlike the three branched triglyceride structure this product does not have to be labeled as containing trans-fats(even though it does!).  Why is this important to your health? Well, trans fats are known to be inflammatory and to be strongly linked to coronary vascular disease, elevated dangerous cholesterol levels and many other medical conditions.

There are many basic label recommendations. Michael Pollan a well known author of “The Omnivores Dilemma” and “In Defense of Food” is often quoted, “Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can’t pronounce.” Next time you go shopping, take a moment to read the labels, see how many ingredients are listed and if you can pronounce what you see easily. If not, reconsider your purchase for a healthier option.