Chewing panmasala 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.
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 panmasala or gutkha at three different doses 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 panmasala-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 panmasala 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.
But 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 panmasala 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.
Both smokeless tobacco and areca nut, a major ingredient in panmasala, 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 panmasala and gutkha market, estimated to be worth thousands of crores of rupees, or hundreds of millions of US dollars.
Would this put you off panmasala? Leave a comment here or join the discussion on Facebook.