Drinks, snacks put male fertility at risk

Zinhle Mapumulo

Zinhle Mapumulo

Men who eat nuts, drink beer, wine and coffee are at greater risk of becoming infertile.

A recent study conducted by the Medical Research Council in Cambridge found that these common drinks and complimentary snacks contain high levels of chemicals called phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring plant chemicals that lower sperm count, leading to male infertility. The results of the research were published in the New Scientist magazine recently.

Head researcher Dr Gunter Kuhnle said: "The data that we have collected has enabled us to put together an accurate table of which foods contain the highest levels of phytoestrogens."

Kuhnle and his team surveyed dozens of foods and drinks using a sensitive chemical technique to measure levels of estrogen in these items. It was discovered that beer, wine, peanuts and coffee powder contained high levels of isoflavones that imitate the female sex hormone estrogen. Isoflavones are commonly used to ease menopause symptoms in women. It is believed that estrogen interferes with other hormonal signals and thus leads to a lowered fertility in males.

Researchers were surprised that phytoestrogens are found in more foods and drinks than previously thought. Brazil nuts, roasted salted nuts have the highest level of phytoestrogens. In alcoholic drinks red wine tops the list, seconded by beer. This is the first study that has linked coffee and nuts to infertility, unlike alcohol which is a known enemy to male fertility.