While a correlation between exposure to pesticides and infertility is not new, previous studies tied higher rates of exposure to pesticides to decreased male fertility. This new study's research, however, looked at women who are already undergoing some form of infertility treatment.
The new study was primarily done by researchers at Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and the results of the study surprised researchers. In the study, researchers focused on 325 women undergoing infertility treatment at Mass General Hospital in Boston. Specifically, they looked for correlations in whether women successfully got pregnant and gave birth with their diets. The subjects self-reported what they ate, and the researchers took careful note of the amounts of fruits and vegetables associated with very high levels of pesticide residue, based on U.S. Department of Agriculture data. Among those fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticide residue are the following: spinach, strawberries and peaches. And the fruits and vegetables with the lowest levels of pesticide residue? Avocados and onions. The results of this new study are staggering, though: of those subjects who consumed more than 2.3 servings per day of high-residue fruits and vegetables, the study found an 18 percent lower probability of getting pregnant and a 23 percent lower probability of successfully giving birth. On the other hand, there seemed to be no correlation between those women who consumed lots of low-residue fruits and vegetables.
It is important too keep in mind that this study is not proof of causality, though. The women surveyed are demographically limited by geographic location (being that they're all seeking treatment from a single hospital), and they were all seeking fertility treatment in the first place, which might skew the findings. And, of course, the study relied on self-reporting, which can have flaws, too. Nonetheless, it is surprising news that fruits and vegetables, which are thought to be good for you, could be harmful to women who are trying to have children.