Maternal beef diet could impact sperm counts, UR study suggests

hood the most important stage for developing semen quality occurs in the womb, Swan added.

The study participants were part of the federally funded, multi-center Study for Future Families, a cohort of pregnant women and their partners who have agreed to provide data so that scientists can investigate environmental causes of variations in reproductive health. Swan, a professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, has been the principal investigator of SFF since 1998. The National Institutes of Health supported this project.

Men from the SFF cohort born between 1949 and 1983 were requested to ask their mothers to complete a questionnaire about her prenatal diet. During this time period, it would have been difficult for the mothers to avoid hormone residues in beef products, as numerous chemical additives were used.

Today, anabolic hormones continue to be legal in the United States and elsewhere, although the Food and Drug Administration has defined an "acceptable daily intake" for each of the six hormones commonly used in cattle. In 1979 the FDA did withdraw approval of the use of diethylstilbestrol (DES), the first synthetic hormone, in cattle. (The European Union banned the use of growth promoters in cattle in 1988.)

Researchers studied the sons semen quality for movement, concentration and other properties. Then they used statistical methods to relate each mans semen quality to the data on his mothers diet.

Mothers who reported eating an average of more than one meal a day of beef were referred to as "high beef consumers." The average number of beef meals was 4.3 per week. Researchers also examined the mothers consumption of other meats (pork, lamb or veal), as well as fish, chicken, soy products and vegetables, but did not observe a significant association between sperm count and these other foods.

In addition, researchers looked at the sons own beef consumption, and found no association with semen quality.'"/>

Contact: Leslie Orr
University of Rochester Medical Center

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