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Polluted air, low protein = infertility.

New research suggests that exposure to a common air pollutant reduces the pregnancy rate in mice fed a protein-deficient diet.

Jarnail Singh and Linda M. Cheatum of Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Ala., began their experiment with the knowledge that carbon monoxide is a ubiquitous indoor and outdoor air pollutant. The researchers speculated that inhaling low levels of this gas could lead to fertility problems in women eating a low-protein diet.

For ethical reasons, they couldn't test that theory on humans, so the team turned to mice. The researchers fed one group of female mice laboratory chow containing 16 percent protein and another group a diet containing 8 percent protein. Some mice in each group were exposed to carbon monoxide (at concentrations of 65 parts per million for six hours per day, five days a week). The remaining mice in each group inhaled air that contained no carbon monoxide. Before being split up into groups, all the female mice had mated with male mice,

The Stillman team found that mice fed the high-protein diet and who inhaled the clean air had a pregnancy rate of 82 percent. Mice that ate the same diet but inhaled carbon monoxide had a similar pregnancy rate. However, when put on the low-protein diet, the pregnancy rate of the mice exposed to carbon monoxide plummeted to 18 percent. In contrast, mice that consumed less protein but inhaled normal air had a pregnancy rate of 45 percent.

Although adequate amounts of protein are required to maintain a pregnancy, mice who inhaled carbon monoxide appeared to have more trouble getting pregnant, Singh says.

Does this finding apply to women who breathe polluted air? Further study must answer that question, Singh admits. However, he says the carbon monoxide theory is plausible and may account in part for the rising U.S. infertility rate.
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Title Annotation:pregnancy rate in mice declines with protein-deficient diet and exposure to common air pollution
Author:Fackelmann, Kathy A.
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jul 10, 1993
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