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

reported eating more than seven beef meals a week. Women who were "high beef consumers" also ate more other red meat and were more likely to be living in North America at the time their son was born [3].

Prof Swan said: "The number of beef meals consumed by the mother was significantly and inversely related to her sons sperm concentration. Sons of high beef consumers had an average sperm concentration of 43.1 million sperm per millimetre of seminal fluid, while sons of mothers who ate less beef had an average of 56.9 million sperm a statistically significant difference of 24.3%. Among sons of mothers whose beef consumption was not high, only 5.7% had sperm concentration below the WHO threshold for sub-fertility of 20 million sperm per millimetre of seminal fluid. This was significantly less than the 17.7% of men whose mothers were high beef consumers who fell below this threshold.

"The proportion of men with sub-fertile sperm concentration and of men with a history of possible sub-fertility increased the more beef meals the mothers had eaten while pregnant. These findings suggest that maternal beef consumption is associated with lower sperm concentration and possible sub-fertility associations that may be related to the presence of anabolic steroids and other xenobiotics in beef.

"However, I must point out that most mothers in this study lived in North America and our findings may not apply to other regions of the world where beef is produced by other methods. In addition, pesticides, other contaminants and lifestyle factors correlating with greater beef consumption may play a role in the effect we observed.

"In order to clarify whether prenatal exposure to anabolic steroids is responsible for our findings, this study needs to be repeated in men born in Europe after 1988 when growth promoters were no longer permitted in beef sold or produced there."

The mens own beef consumption correlated weakly with their mothers

Contact: Emma Mason
European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology

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