Peas and infertility: really?!

This article is a look at the claim that a compound in peas has been linked to infertility. We look at the claim, the evidence and whether or not if you’re trying to conceive you should throw your peas in the bin!

When something isn’t going how we would like it to, most of us now turn investigator and usually straight to: our trusted friend Google. Google is great of course for many things, but, sometimes, you find yourself going deep (trust me, I know!) which can mean all sorts of things and claims come up. The trouble is, as we know, the internet is not always super reliable in terms of facts vs fiction… fake news alert!

That’s why we are dedicated to rooting everything we write about in science and published, checked and reviewed medical research (with clear references so you yourself can check out our sources).

So, what about the theory that a compound in pea protein can cause infertility?!

A little something one of the Better Babies advisory board team saw on the internet. We immediately went to investigate to see if there was anything really behind this claim, particularly as the vegan trend is picking up and as many now look to peas as a complete protein source.

So, here’s what we found:

This claim is linked back to studies published in the late 50s and 60s focusing on a compound in peas called m-xylohydroquinone.

The first study we found looking at this (1) talked about a concentrated form of the compound (although it is not clear from what we can see, how much/how often it is consumed or exactly where it is derived from) cutting fertility by as much as 60% in both men and women (!)

Essentially the researchers were looking at this then being used as a cheap form of contraceptive!

Is there something to this?

The trouble is, there is not a huge amount of information available on this study, other than an apparent follow up in the early 60s (2) looking at the effect of rats over a 30 day period. Interestingly enough however, that study showed no impact on fertility for the rats. Hmmm….

So what’s the answer?

The reality is that when it comes to science, there is not much that is absolutely black and white and when it comes to this topic it seems even less so. Science is often about weighing up the evidence and ideally you want as much as possible, properly tested, with multiple studies of decent size in order to get a relatively reliable answer. We do not have that here unfortunately. Now of course that doesn't mean that the studies done in the 50s are not valid, it just means that you shouldn’t necessarily rush to throw out all your pea protein - especially seeing as it is a complete source which is pretty crucial if you’re a vegan and cannot get protein from animal sources. If you do want to avoid because you don't want to take any risks at all then that is also ok, but for now, there is not enough here to justify complete elimination, particularly as protein is super important for health and fertility and the vegan trend is on the rise so we need our complete protein plant sources. That being said, more studies do need to be done and we will be watching for any follow up studies closely so stay tuned!

Bottom line: as with everything its all about balance, moderation and unrefined sources of nutrition. With that, you cant go too wrong…

References:  

  1. Sanyal SN: Ghosh S: Further Clinical results with m-xylohydroquinone as an oral contraceptive: Acta Endocrinol Suppl: 1956; 23 (Suppl 28): 83-92

  2. Kar AB, Bose AR, Das RP: Effect of m-xylohydroquione on the genital organs and fertility of male rats: Journal of Reproductive Fertility: 1963 Feb; 5: 77-81

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This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The information on this website has been developed following years of personal research and from referenced and sourced medical research. Before making any changes we strongly recommend you consult a healthcare professional before you begin.