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Eating Chicken May Lead to a Smaller Penis

By Michael Greger M.D. ecomii.com
September 15, 2011
File under: Diet, Health Concerns

According to the best available science, three quarters of women find the size of a man’s penis to be either “somewhat important” or “very important.”

What does this have to do with chicken? Phthalates.

Phthalates are chemical compounds used in a wide range of consumer products, including pesticides, paints and PVC plastic. However, the contribution of dietary intake to phthalate exposure was not well defined until a landmark study was published last year in the journal of the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Pthalates had been known to affect the genital development of lab rats, but recent human studies have also shown adverse effects on sexual health and development.

The most important findings to date have come from the Study for Future Families, a multicenter study of prenatal clinics in California, Minnesota, and Missouri.

Researchers measured the levels of phthalates flowing through the bodies of pregnant women, and then later measured the size and characteristics of their infant sons’ genitalia between the ages of two months and three years.

Women who had the most phthalate exposure had up to ten times the odds of giving birth to sons with one or both testicles incompletely descended, their scrotum categorized as small and/or “not distinct from surrounding tissue” and a significantly smaller penile volume, a measure of penis size taking into account both length and girth.

In other words, the more phthalates pregnant women are exposed to, the “increased likelihood of testicular maldescent, a small and indistinct scrotum and smaller penis size.”

The team of researchers conclude: “These changes in male infants, associated with prenatal exposure to some of the same phthalate metabolites that cause similar alterations in male rodents, suggest that commonly used phthalates may undervirilize humans as well.”

So what foods should pregnant women stay away from in order to avoid the “phthalate-related syndrome of incomplete virilization” in their sons?

In a study published last year, the level of phthalate in the urine of thousands of Americans were measured, along with their diets to find out which food was most significantly associated with phthalate body burden.

They looked at dairy, eggs, fish, fruit, poultry, potatoes, tomatoes, vegetables in general and red meat. The most significant correlation in poultry consumption.

The data suggested that, “an increase of one ounce of poultry per day is associated with an increase in [phthalate] DHEP levels of approximately 5.7 percent.” A single chicken breast can weigh 8 ounces.

Perhaps the phthalates were leaching into the meat from the plastic packaging. Probably not, the researchers concluded, “the finding that egg consumption is significantly associated with levels of MHEP [phthalates] too, suggests that chickens themselves may be contaminated with phthalates and that food is not being contaminated just through packaging and processing.”

So to protect their son’s normal development, pregnant women may be wise to avoid poultry

Michael Greger, M.D., a physician, author and internationally recognized speaker on healthy eating, has produced hundreds of nutrition videos available at NutritionFacts.org. Follow Dr. Greger on Twitter and Facebook

1Stulhofer A. How (un)important is penis size for women with heterosexual experience? Arch Sex Behav. 2006 Feb;35(1):5-6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16502148

2 3Colacino JA, Harris TR, Schecter A. Dietary intake is associated with phthalate body burden in a nationally representative sample. Environ Health Perspect. 2010 Jul;118(7):998-1003. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2920922/pdf/ehp-118-998.pdf

4 5 6 7 Swan SH, Main KM, Liu F, Stewart SL, Kruse RL, Calafat AM, Mao CS, Redmon JB, Ternand CL, Sullivan S, Teague JL. Study for Future Families Research Team. Decrease in anogenital distance among male infants with prenatal phthalate exposure. Environ Health Perspect. 2005 Aug;113(8):1056-61. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/pmid/16079079/

8 9 Colacino JA, Harris TR, Schecter A. Dietary intake is associated with phthalate body burden in a nationally representative sample. Environ Health Perspect. 2010 Jul;118(7):998-1003. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2920922/pdf/ehp-118-998.pdf

10 Colacino JA, Harris TR, Schecter A. Dietary intake is associated with phthalate body burden in a nationally representative sample. Environ Health Perspect. 2010 Jul;118(7):998-1003.

 

 
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12  Comments
  1. Michael Greger M.D.
    September 15, 2011 7am UTC

    Please check out the accompanying video: “Chicken consumption and the feminization of male genitalia” at http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/chicken-consumption-and-the-feminization-of-male-genitalia/ and let me know if you have any questions!

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