Titanium dioxide nanoparticles may damage men's fertility
Saturday July 20, 2013 (foodconsumer.org) -- A new study in Journal of Hazard Materials suggests titanium dioxide, an artificial nanomaterial that is commonly used in processed foods, dietary supplements, food ingredients and cosmetic products, can cause testicular damage and affect the male reproductive system.
Nanoparticles when inhaled are considered by the World Health Organization as a human cancer causing agent. Recent studies show that ingested nanoparticles can accumulate in the liver, the kidney and the brain disrupting DNA and causing mutagenesis and potentially carcinogenesis.
The current study led by G. Gao and colleagues from Medical College of Soochow University in Suzhou China found titanium dioxide after ingestion can travel to the testis in males and accumulate there resulting in testicular lesions, sperm malformations and alteration in plasma sex hormone levels.
For the study, male mice were fed 2.5, 5, ad 10 mg/kg body weight of titanium dioxide nanoparticles daily for 90 days and then gene expressions were assayed to see how these nanoparticles affect the genes in the testes.
The researchers found titanium dioxide nanoparticles up-regulated 70 genes with known functions and down-regulated 72 others in titanium dioxide nanoparticles exposed testes. Of the genes affected, six were involved in spermatogenesis and another six are associated with steroid and hormone metabolism.
The authors warned "the production and application of TiO2 NPs should be carried out cautiously, especially by humans of reproductive age."
This is not the first study to indicate that exposure to titanium dioxide nanoparticles can damage men's reproductive system. An early study released in the October, 2012 issue of Toxicology and Industrial Health has already found that nanoparticles particularly titanium dioxide can affect men's fertility.
K. Pawar and G. Kaul at National Dairy Research Institute in Karnal, Haryana, India conducted the laboratory study and found exposure to titanium dioxide negatively affected sperm functionality and enhanced DNA fragmentation.
Nanoparticles can enter cells and cause DNA fragmentation, mutations or even carcinogenesis. Because the damage is induced by the physical properties of nanoparticles, other nanoparticles like zinc oxide and silicon dioxide, which are also commonly used in processed foods and dietary supplements are likely to pose the same health hazard.
Titanium dioxide and other nanoparticles may be used in a dose of up to 2% in many foods and food ingredients. (reporting by Jimmy Downs)
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