Danish researchers have found that men who drink a quart of soda or more each day had a 30% lower sperm count than men who did not consume soft drinks. Those men were also more likely to live more unhealthy lifestyles that can lead to reduced fertility.
Dr. Tina Kold Jensen of Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, Denmark and colleagues studied more than 2,500 young men. The majority of the men didn’t drink cola on a regular basis, and also lived more healthful lifestyles overall. Those men had a sperm count of 50 million sperm per millimeter of semen. Just under 100 men drank sodas regularly and also had a tendency to eat more fast food and less fruit and vegetables. Those men had only 35 million sperm per millimeter.
The counts are still considered within the normal limits, according to the World Health Organization, however, men with fewer sperm generally have a higher risk of being infertile.
The researchers did not find an association with the caffeine content of the soda and the decrease in sperm count. Coffee and tea did not lead to the same effect in this population sample, and previous studies have found conflicting results. Instead they felt other ingredients in the beverage, or because it was one factor in an overall unhealthy lifestyle, were the primary factors.
Many studies have shown an association with a healthy, well-balanced diet in the preservation of reproductive health for both men and women. A 2009 Spanish study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility found that men who ate more dairy and meat, and less fruits and vegetables, were more likely to have poor semen quality.
Infertility is a common problem, affecting an estimated 6 million American couples. Men who are ready to start a family should follow a healthy diet and exercise program to include:
• Eat plenty of foods rich in vitamin C and other antioxidants. These nutrients help prevent sperm defects and boost its motility (movement). An 8-ounce glass of orange juice contains about 124 milligrams of C. Aim for at least 90 mg a day.
• Oysters are not just an old-wives tale. Several studies show that even short-term zinc deficiencies can reduce semen volume and testosterone levels. Men need 11 milligrams of zinc per day and great sources include oysters (six medium oysters have 16 mg), extra-lean beef tenderloin (a 3-ounce serving has 4.8 mg), baked beans (a 1-cup serving contains 3.5 mg), and dark chicken meat (2.38 mg per 3 ounces).
• Both Mom and Dad need folic acid. Studies suggest that men with low levels of this key B vitamin — the same one women need to reduce the baby's risk for neural tube birth defects — have lower sperm counts. The daily minimum is 400 micrograms and excellent sources include fortified breakfast cereals, leafy greens, legumes, and orange juice.
• Boost your calcium and vitamin D. Consuming 1,000 mg of calcium and 400 IU (10 micrograms) of vitamin D each day may improve a man's fertility, according to research from University of Wisconsin at Madison. Good calcium sources include skim milk (an 8-ounce glass has 302 mg) and yogurt (1 cup of plain yogurt contains 415 mg of calcium).You can get vitamin D from milk (an 8-ounce glass has 98 IU) and salmon (a 3-ounce serving has 360 IU).
• Limit or eliminate alcohol. While an occasional drink is generally considered safe, studies show that daily wine, beer, or hard liquor consumption can reduce testosterone levels and sperm counts and raise the number of abnormal sperm in your ejaculate. Other research has shown that alcohol is also bad for baby – men who drank the equivalent of two alcoholic beverages a day in the month before conception have babies who weigh an average of 6.5 ounces less than other babies. While that may not seem like a lot, babies with low birth weight can have significant medical conditions.
• Exercise and control your weight. Both of these factors have reproductive repercussions, so strive for 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity in addition to the healthy diet to maintain weight, or even lose a couple of pounds.