For Healthier Sperm Eat Vegetables, Fish and Whole Grains
Men who think it’s more macho to eat juicy steaks and fast-food burgers instead of fish and lentil soup may want to listen up. New research indicates that diets rich in red meat, trans fats, and processed grains are detrimental to sperm while eating lots of vegetables, fish, and whole grains can result in healthier sperm.
Sperm performs better on a healthy diet
The viability of a man’s sperm is critical for fertility, and sperm health depends on several factors. One is quantity: men are more likely to be fertile if there is a high quantity (more than 39 million) of sperm in the semen in each ejaculation. Quality is another factor: men are most likely to be fertile if more than 4% of their sperm are normal in shape and structure.
Motility is yet another feature: sperm have to swim and wriggle on their own to reach and penetrate the egg. Men are most likely to be fertile if more than 40% of their sperm are mobile.
According to Audrey J. Gaskins, lead author of a study presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s annual meeting in Orlando, Florida, on October 17, “the main overall finding of our work is that healthy diet seems to be beneficial for semen quality.”
Gaskin, who is a doctoral candidate in Harvard School of Public Health’s department of nutrition, explained that she and her team found “a healthy diet composed of a higher intake of fish, fresh fruit, whole grains, legumes and vegetables seems to improve sperm motility.”
The study involved 188 men ages 18 to 22 who completed food questionnaires, which was the basis of categorizing their diets as Western (red meat, sweets, refined carbs) or Prudent (fish, fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes). Semen tests were conducted on all the men, and men who consumed a Western diet had sperm with reduced motility.
In another study also presented at the meeting, investigators reported that men who consumed a diet that was relatively high in trans fat had lower sperm concentration levels. The study, which was led by Dr. Jorge Chavarro, an assistant professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, involved nearly 100 men who underwent a nutritional analysis and evaluation of their semen.
The investigators found that the more trans fat a man consumed, the lower his sperm count, and the higher the level of trans fats in his sperm and seminal fluid. Trans fat did not appear to have an impact on sperm shape or motility, however.
Taken together, the results of these two studies indicate that what a man eats has an effect on the health of his sperm, and thus his fertility. More specifically, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, and legumes and low in foods that contain trans fats may make for healthier sperm. Given that these study results were presented at a meeting and have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, the data and conclusions should be considered preliminary.
Picture credit: Wikimedia Commons
Updated July 9, 2014