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Fatty foods now linked to unhealthy sperm

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Study links poor sperm quality to high fat diet

Researchers found that fatty foods in the diet could have a negative impact on sperm quality and count. It's not just obesity and type 2 diabetes that can come from eating too much fat. Your sperm don't like saturated fat either it seems. Eating too much fat might can lower chances of fertility for men.

Results of a clinical study conducted by Jill A. Attaman, MD, of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., and co-authors showed men who consumed large amounts of high fat foods have lower sperm quality and concentration when they compared to men with lower fat intake.

The finding, published in the journal Human Reproduction, also linked healthier sperm and larger quantity to higher intake of omega- 3 fatty acids found in fish and nuts.

Men who took in 37% of calories from fat or 13% more from saturated fat that comes from foods like red meat and vegetable oils had approximately 40% lower sperm quality and concentration. The association between poor sperm quality and count was stronger when the researchers took into account body mass index (BMI) and other lifestyle factors.

Other known contributors to poor semen quality and low sperm counts include environmental contaminants, use of tobacco, alcohol, marijuana and cocaine abuse and testicular exposure to heat from laptop use, tight fitting underwear and other clothing and working in a hot environment. STD’s, especially chlamydia have also been shown to interfere with the production of sperm. Cyclists and mountain-bikers can experience damaged sperm from vascular changes that happen from trauma to the scrotum and testes.

The current study is the first to look at the role of dietary fat and semen quality, Attaman said in a press release, which she also said should be “reproduced in future work” because of the study’s limitations and “… the fact that it is a cross-sectional analysis and that it is the first report of a relation between dietary fat and semen quality.”

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Limitations for the study included self- reported food intake and use of disposable chambers for analyzing sperm concentration and motility that may have led to underestimation of sperm count.

Animal studies have also linked fertility problems with dietary fat intake.

How the study was conducted

The researchers measured fatty acid levels the sperm and seminal plasma of 23 men whose average age was 36, using 71% of the men were overweight or obese; two-thirds had never smoked.

Twelve of the men had low sperm count (

After adjusting for lifestyle factors, the authors found a 41% lower sperm concentration linked to intake of high levels of dietary fat in addition to better morphology from omega- fatty acid intake.

Further adjustments for fat protein and subtypes showed a 38% reduction in sperm concentration in men with highest saturated fat intake. For each 5% increase in saturated fat in the diet, there was an 18% drop in sperm count. The study suggests too much fat in the diet can destroy quality and quantity of sperm, leading to male infertility.

Human Reproduction
Attaman JA, et al
"Dietary fat and semen quality among men attending a fertility clinic"
Hum Reprod 2012; DOI:10.1093/humrep/des065
March 13, 2012

Image credit: Wikimedia commons



Kathleen, great article on how fatty food directly affects fertility and I agree it does. A couple of my friends and their wives who are obese are having difficult conceiving. dietfoodsweightloss.com
Interesting information for our readers. Thank you.