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This article was first published 11 years ago

How desi forms of tobacco can affect YOUR sex life

Last updated on: July 23, 2012 14:20 IST

Photographs: Siqbal/Wikimedia Commons Courtesy

If you're into paanmasala and gutkha consumption, read this!

Paanmasala and its tobacco form, gutkha, may be toxic to sperm -- in mice at least. So should you think twice next time you open that sachet of paanmasala?

Probably, say scientists at India's National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH). The chewing mixture may harm human sperm too. Mice that munched paanmasala in the lab ended up with shrunken testicles.

Chewing paanmasala over a long period may affect male fertility, say the authors in their paper published in the June issue of the Journal of Toxicology and Industrial Health.

Paanmasala mice

In the study, scientists at NIOH in Ahmedabad divided 26 Swiss Albino mice into seven test groups. They fed six groups of mice with food that contained either paanmasala or gutkha at three different doses to match the different amounts people actually chew. For comparison, they fed the seventh group of mice a standard mousy diet that didn't contain any chewing mixtures.

After six months, the scientists used statistical methods to compare sperm from the paanmasala-munching mice to those who got the standard food.

The researchers found a striking difference: mice that ate food laced with the highest dose of paanmasala produced much lower amounts of sperm. They also had fewer young sperm cells called spermatids.

The mice also had abnormally shaped sperm, which meant they were damaged.

Small testicles

Photographs: Bobjgalindo/Wikimedia Commons

The effects of gutkha were even worse. A high dose diet of the tobacco chewing mixture harmed both the quantity and quality of the mice's sperm.

Both paanmasala and gutkha-fed mice had smaller, damaged testicles. They also produced significantly smaller amounts of a protein which plays an important role in male sexual development.

All in all, with their damaged testes and lower amounts of abnormal sperm, it was harder for the male paanmasala mice to get a female pregnant.



Both smokeless tobacco and areca nut, a major ingredient in paanmasala, are cancer-causing in humans, according to the world cancer research organisation IARC. Yet advertisers often market the chewing mixtures as 'safer' than regular cigarettes.

This claim encourages people to opt for chewing rather than smoking and helps boost the massive Indian paanmasala and gutkha market, estimated to be worth thousands of crores of rupees, or hundreds of millions of US dollars.

Tags: IARC , paanmasala , US