Exposure to common chemicals may affect female fertility

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A study conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a member of the Mass General Brigham health care system, has found links between the presence of phenol biomarkers and altered thyroid hormone measurements among women seeking fertility care.

The results, published in the journal Toxics, provide new insights into how environmental chemicals and lifestyle choices might affect reproductive health.

The researchers, led by Lidia Mínguez-Alarcón, assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and a reproductive epidemiologist in the Brigham’s Channing Division of Network Medicine, aimed to identify predictors of thyroid hormone levels to help women improve their health and fertility.

The study involved 339 women seeking care at a fertility clinic. The team examined urinary concentrations for phenol biomarkers and serum samples for molecular markers of thyroid function and thyroid autoimmunity.

They then used statistical methods to determine the combined influence of these biomarkers on thyroid levels.

Key Findings

Phenols, which are found in everyday items such as toys, sunscreen, dental products, food packaging, and food preservatives, can disrupt hormonal balances in the body, potentially causing adverse health effects.

The presence of urinary bisphenol A, methylparaben and triclosan — all of which are regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration — were associated with altered thyroid hormonal levels.

Some of these altered levels suggested the presence of thyroid diseases, including hypothyroidism.

Notably, fertility depends on maintaining a balanced harmony of hormones within the body. Disruptions to these levels can come from external sources, particularly exposure to environmental hazards.

The researchers found that women with altered thyroid hormones had lower ovarian reserves, indicating that preventing significant fluctuations in thyroid hormone levels could be crucial for maintaining a woman’s fertility potential.

While the study provides important insights, the authors acknowledged that their findings diverged from some previous research.

They attributed this discrepancy to differences in study populations, phenol biomarker concentrations, or other phenols not measured in their study.

Future research is needed to confirm these results and consider the long-term effects of altered thyroid function.

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The study was published in Toxics. Follow us on Twitter for more articles about this topic.

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