Link between beef consumption during pregnancy and reduced sperm quality in sons

ther hormones such as oestradiol, testosterone, progesterone, zeranol, trenbolone acetate and melengestrol continue to be used. Residues of these chemicals remain in the meat after slaughter and so, in the USA, the FDA has regulated their use to avoid unintended adverse effects in humans eating the meat and defined an "acceptable daily intake". The International Joint Food and Agricultural Organizations World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) has also published ADIs. In Europe, the use of these hormones has been banned since 1988.

"These ADIs are based on traditional toxicological testing, and the possible effects on human populations exposed to residues of anabolic sex hormones through meat consumption have never, to our knowledge, been studied. Theoretically, the foetus and young children are particularly sensitive to exposure to sex steroids. Therefore, the consumption of residues of steroids in meat by pregnant women and young children is of particular concern," said Prof Swan, who is director of the Center for Reproductive Epidemiology, associate chair for research and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.

Prof Swan and her colleagues recruited couples to the study when the pregnant women attended prenatal clinics between 1999 and 2005. As well as asking questions about the couples themselves (medical histories, lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption and diet), the researchers requested the men to ask their mothers to fill in a brief questionnaire about their diet while pregnant with their sons. The men also provided semen samples.

Out of 773 men who provided semen samples, information was available for 387 on how many beef meals their mothers ate during their pregnancies. On average, the mothers ate 4.3 beef meals a week; only 15 (4%) reported eating no beef during pregnancy; 336 ate seven or fewer beef meals a week; 51

Contact: Emma Mason
European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology

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