Testosterone and Pesticides
Is organic food just for girly men? Actually, it might be just the opposite: recent studies are showing strong evidence that some pesticides may make a guy a little too light in the loafers. A recent issue of Epidemiology found a correlation between exposure to the pesticide chlorpyrifos and a decline in testosterone. 
The researchers examined males undergoing fertility treatment and found "multiple
linear regression models showed an inverse association between TCPY [a metabolite
of chlorpyrifos] and testosterone concentration". Simply put, that means the
more the chlorpyrifos, the less the testosterone.
The Tour De France is a little over 2,000 miles and your food typically has to
travel about that on average to get to your local supermarket. Your
fruits, vegetables and grains travel
an average of between 1,500 and 2,500 miles
and increasingly from foreign countries including China.  This means -
you guessed it - more pesticides and chemicals have to go on your food to get it
to survive the typical megatrek to your plate.
What does that mean to all of you concentrating on your fitness and health?
It means that as you do the right thing and eat your fruits and green stuff, Old MacDonald is trying to shrink
your nuts to the size of a fruit fly! Am I exagerrating?
Well, a little bit. But the study found that men with the most pesticide byproducts in their systems typically
had 10% less testosterone than men with the least pesticide by products. That’s quite a hit for just one pesticide,
especially for those on the low testosterone side in the first place. I should also
mention that previous research has found this pesticide widely present in the general
population: in other words, you'll be extremely unlikely to escape ingesting
it under normal circumstances. (Before I go on, please, please read this
Excitotoxins: these have the potential to be much more deadly
to your testosterone than even pesticides.)
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The researchers also found that two additional pesticides, carbaryl and naphthalene, were also correlated with lower
testosterone in subjects. Imagine what the other forty pesticides you’re eating are doing to your precious
testosterone. The concern over pesticides actually came over decades of observations as to what they (and other chemicals such as those used in plastics)
are doing to the animal kingdom. Florida gators next to pesticide manufacturing plants have a drastically increased
mortality and many of the adult males have ovaries instead of testes. Not good.
Atrazine is another example. In America 60 million pounds of this are sprayed on annually on sugar cane,
corn and other crops where, of course, it washes into rivers, streams and various water supplies. Unfortunately,
researchers found that it caused sexual abnormalities in frogs! In Europe it is banned but not in the good ol’ U.S. of A!
NOTE: The National Resources Defense Council just found
Much Higher Levels of
Atrazine than previously estimated by the EPA.
Why do these chemicals cause so many problems? The trouble is that many of them are endocrine disruptors. Some of them, for example, mimic estrogen or testosterone
and take over receptor sites. Others interfere with the chemical pathways responsible for formation or delivery of testosterone or estrogen. In the case of chlorpyrifos, researchers
believe it effects luetinizing hormone, which signals production of testosterone in males.
I should mention that pesticides and herbicides don't just do their damage by
modifying hormone levels. Pesticides and herbicides can do damage
throughout the body without ever touching your hormones! See this link on
and Herbicides Can Lead to ADHD and Parkinson's.
One example of this is dieldrin, a DDT alternative, which has proven to be more toxic to vertebrates
than insects. One
study showed it
increases oxidative stress, lowers dopamine levels and is likely a cause of
Parkinson's Disease.  Furthermore, it has induced liver and hepatocellular cancers.
 Even worse, it is not biodegradable. It has been banned for
decades yet still persists in our food supply like radioactive waste. How
could they use a non-biodegradable pesticide in our food supply? Is it
possible to be more irresponsible?
Previous data from the National Academy of Sciences has shown that Agent
Orange and other herbicides do not just damage the brain but can induce hypertension,
as shown by examination of Vietnam Vets with
significant exposure.  Dioxins and other chemicals
cause proteins to accumlate in and around the organs which can cause significant
issues including lymphomas and cancers as well. They stated that "the
committee based its conclusion on the fact that AL amyloidosis shares many
biological and pathological similarities with multiple myeloma and certain
B-cell lymphomas, which have been found to be associated with exposure to
NOTE: Dioxins are so deadly that they were used in 2005 to
Yushchenko, a well-known opposition Ukranian leader.
So how do you avoid these T-killing compounds? If you want to shop at a regular
supermarket, it will be tough. About the only thing that researchers can tell us
at this point is which fruits and vegetables have the greatest incidence and total
amount of pesticides. Here's a link that gives
such a list: http://www.ewg.org/news/story.php?id=2076.
This EWG states that among the worst offenders, which they call the Dirty Dozen,
are "apples, bell peppers, celery, cherries, imported grapes, nectarines, peaches,
pears, potatoes, red raspberries, spinach and strawberries".
The Latex Glove Award: Apples are particularly known for being the "most
sprayed". The problem is that apples are usually grafted and therefore not very
pest resistant. Farmers spray more to compensate and that's why organic is
probably a good idea in this case.
The Latex Glove Runner Up: Probably the second most chemical-ridden item out of a farm
is the potato. Because they're a root vegetable, they get treated with
fungicides and then are sprayed with an herbicide to get rid of the "little
string roots" that come out of potatoes. After they are harvested, they
get another dose making for one scary vegetable.
The least contaminated
produce found was "asparagus, avocados, bananas, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, kiwi,
mangoes, onions, papayas, pineapples and sweet peas".
At least science has provided us with a way that you can try to avoid pesticides:
by limiting yourself to those on the least contaminated list. Realistically,
though, the only real way to avoid pesticdes is to buy organic. Studies have
shown that children who eat organic vegetables and fruit only dramatically lose
pesticide residues in their body tissues and then regain them upon returning to
Keep in mind that the knowledge about the effects of pesticides on humans is still
in its infancy. Making the task even more difficult is the fact that there
are about 87,000 different chemicals currently in use making it impossible to test
even a small percentage of the total. My opinion, though,
is "better safe than sorry".
News Flash #1: Pesticides and fungicides are increasingly being correlated with
thyroid disease as well. One 2009 study based in Nebraska found that women
exposed to the most of organochlorine pesticides and fungicides were much (40%)
more likely to develop hypothyroidism, which results often in weight gain, loss
of libido and other serious medical conditions. 
News Flash #2: Recent research has found that Triclocarban, a chemical that is
widespread in our water supply and various home care products such as antibacterial
soaps, can actually increase testosterone. But before you try to transform
yourself into Barry Bonds by washing your hands twenty times a day, I only relayed
this story to show that we are not researching the products we put onto and into
our bodies nearly enough. Who knows what else triclocarban does to you?
Messing with your testosterone may be just the beginning.
Mercury: Although not really a pesticide, I want to mention that Methyl
Mercury will definitely lower testosterone.  Sadly, one of nature's most healthy
foods, fish, is often contaminated with Mercury and so extreme care is
warranted. Most recommend fish only once or twice per week because of it.
Researchers just announced that mercury contamination is extremely common in
high fructose corn syrup: 50% of products tested by researchers were
contaminated!  The issue apparently is that there are no standards for
mercury residue in hydrochloric acid and hydrochloric acid is used to make high
fructose corn syrup.
2) Food Chem Toxicology, 2008, 46:270-279
3) 4) J Environmental Health, Jan 2009, 8:2"Mercury from chlor-alkali plants:
measured concentrations in food product sugar", Renee Dufault, et al;
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Jan 26 2009, "Much High Fructose
Corn Syrup Contaminated with Mercury New Study Finds: Brand Name Food
Products Also Discovered to Contain Mercury".
4) National Acad of Sciences, July 24 2009, "LIMITED DATA SUGGEST POSSIBLE
ASSOCIATION BETWEEN AGENT ORANGE EXPOSURE AND ISCHEMIC HEART DISEASE AND
PARKINSON'S DISEASE IN VIETNAM VETERANS",
5) National Academy of Sciences, July 27 2007,
Suggest a Possible Association Between Agent Orange Exposure and Hypertension,
But the Evidence Is Limited"
7) Brian Halweil, Nov 2002, Worldwatch Institute on November 1, 2002,
"Worldwatch Paper #163: Home Grown: The Case For Local Food In A Global Market"
8) Exp Neurol, Apr 2007, 204(2): 619–630, "Dieldrin exposure induces oxidative
damage in the mouse nigrostriatal dopamine system"
9) Hayes WJ jr. and Laws ET jr. eds. (1991) Handbook of Pesticide Toxicology,
Academic Press Inc., San Diego, 732-735, 741, 828, 832, 836-840
10) American Journal of Epidemiology, 2010, 171(4):455-464, "Pesticide Use and
Thyroid Disease Among Women in the Agricultural Health Study"