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First the bad...

Chemicals in beer 'can damage male fertility'

Chemicals in beer 'can damage male fertility'

By David Derbyshire, Science Correspondent in Vienna

(Filed: 03/07/2002)

Common hormone-mimicking chemicals found in soya, beer, pesticides and paint can directly affect male fertility, scientists have shown.

A study has come up with the first evidence that a range of potent environmental oestrogens - chemicals that mimic the effects of the female sex hormone - disrupt the behaviour of sperm inside a woman's body.

In tests, sperm exposed to extremely low levels of the chemicals "peaked too soon" and lost their ability to crack through the outer barrier of an egg.

Although the findings are preliminary and come from animal experiments, researchers believe that they may help to explain falling fertility rates over the last few decades. There are fears that some chemicals in plastics, pesticides, cleaners, soya and hops could mimic the behaviour of oestrogens in the body.

Prof Lynn Fraser, an expert in fertility at King's College London, investigated three environmental chemicals - genistein, found in soya and other beans; 8-prenylnaringenin, found in hops; and nonylphenol, found in cleaners, paints, herbicides and pesticides - and a natural form of oestrogen found in women's bodies.

Before sperm can fertilise an egg, it must be switched on or "capacitated" inside a woman's body. Once in contact with the egg, the sperm must also release enzymes that allow it to break through the outer membrane of the egg.

In immature sperm, all the chemicals accelerated development so they became fertile more quickly. The oestrogens stimulated the mobility of the sperm, switched it on and prematurely released the egg-cracking enzymes, the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology meeting was told yesterday.

Prof Fraser believes that oestrogen-mimicking chemicals from food, packaging and pollution could have the same effect on human sperm.

"At first sight, these results might suggest that oestrogens, particularly those found in the environment, could help fertility," she said.

"However, the responses we have seen could have negative effects over time. For instance, the fact that the oestrogens stimulated sperm in an unregulated manner could mean that the sperm peak too soon before they have found an egg to fertilise."

Now the good...

Doctors treat heart patients with vodka

Romanian doctors treating heart patients with vodka to save money

Doctors in a Romanian hospital say a pilot scheme to treat patients with vodka to save money on medicine is proving a success.

Heart patients have been asked to go each morning to the Recovery Clinic in Cluj Napoca to take their 30 grams of the spirit.

Doctors say the alcohol lowers their cholesterol levels for a fraction of the price of specialist medicines.

They started an experiment using 60 patients suffering from certain heart conditions. A local company donated 100kg of vodka.

Professor Dumitru Zenghea, who coordinates the experiment, told the Libertatea newspaper: "We started this research last year in autumn.

"We were trying to find a way to replace some expensive medicines and obtain a normalization of cholesterol.

"Thus we thought using a small quantity of alcohol may have the same effect. And the results are encouraging."

Doctors said they decided to use vodka because it is a pure product, it is very cheap and the overall treatment becomes affordable for the heart patients.

They stressed that the patients used in the experiment are not suffering from diseases that can be aggravated by alcohol. Doctors also advise other heart patients to continue their regular treatment and not start drinking vodka.

"What we are doing here is a research and cannot be put into practice yet," Dr. Zenghea said.


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