Can Fast Food Make a Man Sterile?
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July 9, 2016
By Susan Callahan, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

Americans invented fast food so it's little wonder that, of all the
developed nations of the world, that we are always among the leaders
in fast food consumption.  We, after all, are the birthplace of the largest
fast food companies in the world --- McDonald's, Burger King,
Kentucky Fried Chicken, White Castle and hundreds more.  Now,
scientists have found that you may be getting something extra with
your next order of fries ---a nasty little chemical that can make men

The word "phthalates" doesn't exactly roll off the tongue and that may
be one of the reasons that, up to now, it hasn't taken hold in our
consciousness.   But, make no mistake about it, even if phthalates is
hard to pronounce and spell, this is one little toxin you should make it
your business to focus on.  

What Are Phthalates and Can I Avoid Them?

Phthalates are compounds used in plastics to make them flexible. They
are in almost all plastic products that you  touch.  When you drink from
a plastic water bottle, reach for a garden hose, shampoo your hair, use
hair conditioner, use a plastic bag for your groceries, play with a plastic
ball or inflatable tube, handle your dry cleaning bag, unwrap a burger
in that click paper ---all these normal everyday activities probably bring
you in touch with a tiny amount of phthalates.

It all adds up. As you are exposed to more and more phthalates, your
body starts to hang on to them more stubbornly.

The Problem with Fast Food and Phthalates

Fast food pose a particularly tricky problem with these toxins. Fast food
is highly processed, so that the natural food has come into contact with
plastics in ,any stages before it reaches your hands.  In the factory, the
food may have been processed in plastic containers, separated using
plastics; re-packaged using plastics, then shipped using plastics, re-
heated using plastics and finally, wrapped in paper that may contain

Because fast food has multiple exposures to phthalates, most fast food
is rich in these toxins.  And when you eat fast food, you too become a
vessel of these toxins.

Scientists have long known this fact and have measured the levels of
these toxins in many human studies.

In the US, the Centers for Disease Control has measured the amount of
phthalates in our bodies.  Their Fourth National Report on Human
Exposure to Environmental Chemicals found an average of 13 different
types of phthalates in every man, woman and child in the US.  

These Toxins Disturb Your Hormones and Damage Sperm DNA

Phthalates are what scientists call "endocrine disruptors", meaning they
upset the natural balance of your hormones. One study has found that
men exposed to a particular kind of phthalate "monoethyl phthalate"
actually experience damage to the DNA of their sperm, a 2003 study
from the Harvard School of Public Health found.

Another study has found men with high levels of phthalates have a
harder time impregnating women.  

Men who are exposed to phthalates have a 20% reduced virility,
according to a 2014 study from Eunice Kennedy Shriver National
Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Maryland. If these
men are trying to impregnate their spouses or girlfriends, the couple
takes 20% longer time to conceive.

In these studies, the source of the toxins was not specified. Now,
scientists believe that have zeroed in on a rich source of these
disruptive toxins ---fast food.

In 2016, scientists from George Washington University analyzed data
on 9,000 people. They analyzed the data from a survey to discover how
much fast food, if any, they ate and how often they ate it, such as
whether they ate it in the past 24 hours.  Then they compared this fast
food data with measurements of the amount of the phthalate toxins in
their blood stream.

What they discovered was that 33% of the people had eaten food
within 24 hours of the survey.  These people had 15.5% higher levels
of a certain phthalate (DEHP) than people who had not eaten fast food.

They also had 25% more of a second kind of phthalate (DiNP) in their
blood stream than people who had not eaten any kind of fast food.

How Do You Get Rid of These Toxins?

Fortunately, phthalates are "non-persistent" chemicals, meaning that, if
you stay away from them, their levels will decrease in your blood

Drink and Eat from Glass and Ceramics. Start by reducing the
amount of times you eat or drink food from plastics.  If you have to
have bottled water, look for bottlers without phthalates. Try brands of
glass-bottled water (Pellegrino and others).

Avoid eating from plastic plates and using plastic utensils also.

Cook Your Own Food/Eat at Home.  You are much less likely to be
exposed to phthlates if you eat at home.  

As for leftovers, choose plastic ware such as Tupperware which is not
produced using phthalates.  Avoid the off-brand plastic containers.

Never Microwave on Plastic.  In most cases, choose to cook your
food in a "regular" oven, meaning a non-microwave oven, Use a
ceramic plate or dish to microwave your food.

Carry Your Groceries in a Cloth or Paper Bag.  Whenever possible,
shop with a cloth bag or use a paper bag to carry your groceries.

5. Think of Fast Food as an Rare Treat. Limit the amount of times you
eat at fast food establishments. Aim for no more than once per month.

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Eating fast  food is associated with high
levels of toxins that damage can make
you sterile.