A new Harvard study suggests that eating organic produce may increase the chances of a successful pregnancy.
For the 7.3 million women in the United States who have used infertility services, the experience of trying to conceive is trying, to say the least. Couples experiencing infertility have likely considered dietary influences, along with an array of other factors that could be contributing to their inability to have a baby. Scientists suggest that the chemicals on your fruits and veggies may be partly to blame.
A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine sought to examine if there was a link between exposure to pesticide residue on fruits and vegetables and pregnancy outcomes. The researchers found that consuming produce with high-pesticide residue was found to lower the chances of pregnancy for women undergoing infertility treatment.
The researchers studied 325 women who were participants in the Environment and Reproductive Health Study (EARTH), an ongoing study examining fertility among couples at Massachusetts General Hospital’s fertility center. The women filled out questionnaires about their diet, prior to undergoing fertility treatments. They reported how often they consumed certain foods, beverages, and supplements in the last year.
The researchers then utilized reports from the US Department of Agriculture Pesticide Data Program to determine the amount of pesticide residue on each fruit and vegetable. They matched these findings with what the women were eating.
Women who ranked high in terms of pesticide exposure were eating at least three servings of high-pesticide produce each day. However, those in the lowest exposure group ate only one serving per day, on average.
The study concluded that women who ate more pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables were 18 percent less likely to get pregnant than those who did not eat as much. Further, the researchers found that high pesticide use was linked to increased pregnancy loss. Women who had higher pesticide exposure but were able to become pregnant were 26 percent less likely to have a successful pregnancy.
The researchers then replicated the effect of swapping a high-pesticide fruit or vegetable for a low-pesticide one and found that pregnancy odds increased by 79 percent.
The study findings were consistent with animal studies showing that low-dose pesticide exposure may have effects on pregnancy outcomes.
Lead author Dr. Jorge Chavarro suggests considering eating organic fruit and vegetables is worth considering, within reason. “I don’t think there’ any reason to buy organic versions of some of the low-pesticide fruits and vegetables,” he said. “Buying the organic version of a low-pesticide food like oranges or avocados is not the best way to minimize exposure to pesticides. A reasonable approach would limit exposure to high-pesticide fruits and vegetables like apples or strawberries.”
Several organizations, such as the Environmental Working Group (EWG), have developed lists to help determine which fruits and vegetables absorb the most pesticide residue. Utilizing data from the USDA these groups have developed the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” lists to help consumers make safer food choices.