Some fruits and vegetables are better than others.

In a JAMA Internal Medicine article published online on October 30th, 2017, Yu-Han Chiu MD and colleagues studied the association between pesticide residue intake from consumption of fruits and vegetables and pregnancy outcomes among women undergoing infertility treatment.

They studied 325 women aged 18 to 45 years old undergoing infertility treatment with assisted reproductive technology (like in vitro fertilization) at the Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center in Boston. The researchers found that “intake of high–pesticide residue fruits and vegetables was associated with a lower probability of live birth, while low–pesticide residue fruit and vegetable intake was not associated with this outcome.” Statistical analysis of the study’s results indicated that replacing one serving per day of high-pesticide residue fruit and vegetable with one serving per day of low-pesticide residue fruit and vegetable, would yield 79 percent higher odds of pregnancy and 88 percent higher odds of live births.

This is consistent with earlier studies showing increased infertility in both men and women exposed to food containing pesticides.

Pesticides are basically nerve agents and may interfere with neural signals critical for proper release of fertility promoting hormones. In some cases, pesticides are systemic, meaning that they are taken up by the inside of the plant itself so that insects are poisoned by eating the leaf of the plant or the fruit itself. Thus, with systemic pesticides, which are widely used, washing or even pealing a fruit or vegetable won’t eliminate the pesticide.

Yu-Han Chiu and co-authors included tables in their JAMA Internal Medicine article showing that the fruits and vegetables that have the highest pesticide residue are: Green/red/yellow peppers, spinach, strawberries, peaches, plums. Foods with the lowest pesticide residue include onions, avocado, corn, cabbage, cauliflower, and grapefruit.

The implication of this latest study on the effects of pesticides on fertility is that eating either organic fruits and vegetables or non-organic ones that have the least pesticide residue will increase fertility.