On Food and Sterility
August 25, 2012 in Health
Page 253 PEA
* High in contraceptive agents
In folk medicine the pea’s greatest claim to fame is as an antifertility agent.
Surprise! Plain old green peas, numerous studies show, do contain well-known antifertility agents.
Amazingly, in recent years much time, energy, and money have gone into trying to make pea chemicals into pharmaceutical contraceptives. “The population of Tibet has remained stationary for the last 200 years and the staple of the diet of the Tibetans consists of barley and peas.” With that observation made in 1949, Indian scientist Dr. S. N. Sanyal of the Calcutta Bacteriological Institute undertook a lifelong mission based on his conviction that an over consumption of peas had accidentally curbed population growth in Tibet. His aim was to identify the contraceptive chemical in peas and turn it into an antifertility drug to be used in India and throughout the world. He very nearly succeeded.
The Indian government, in fact, for years had as one of its biggest priorities the isolation of the pea’s remarkable contraceptive secret. As far back as 1935, an Indian professor had noticed that both male and female laboratory rats which ate only “martar,” or peas, were sterile. Fed peas as twenty percent of the diet, litters were reduced; at thirty percent they were nonexistent.
Dr. Sanyal managed to identify the antifertility pea chemical, m-xylohydroquinone. He synthesized it, concentrated it in capsules, and gave it to women; their pregnancy rate went down by fifty to sixty percent. When men took the antifertility pea capsule, their sperm count dropped by half. Somehow the pea compounds meddled with the reproductive hormones progesterone and estrogen. Dr. Sanyal’s human trials “definitely established the oral contraceptive properties of P. sativum (pea) oil,” agrees Dr. Normal Farnsworth of the University of Illinois and a leading expert on fertility-regulating drugs. But he notes, the pea chemicals never gained a place as a contraceptive because their performance could not match that of other pharmaceuticals, namely the Pill.
Page 276 SOYBEAN
* Promotes contraception
A CONTRACEPTIVE PILL?
Soybeans, like peas and other legumes, are rich in natural estrogens (female hormones) and conceivably could inhibit fertility or help replace estrogen in postmenopausal women. As a test, physicians at Harvard and Duke, funded by the National Institutes of Health, are giving low daily doses of soybeans to a group of postmenopausal women to see whether their hormone levels go up.
Suspicions that natural hormones in soybeans might act as contraceptives were aroused by a study of exotic cats in the Cincinnati Zoo. Such animals are often infertile. Searching for reasons, researchers discovered that standard cat chow at the zoo was about half soybean products, loaded with plant estrogens. When the soybeans were replaced with chicken, the cats displayed signs of increased fertility and other hormone-related activity.
Beiler, J.M., et al, “Anti-Fertility Activity of Pisum Sativum.” Experimental Medicine and Surgery (1953) 11:179-185.
Sanyal, S.N. “Ten Years of Research on an Oral Contraceptive from Pisum Sativum.” Science and Culture (June 1960) 25 (12):661-665.