Young men who care about their sperm quality might want to lay off the cheeseburgers and fries, according to a new study that links a typical Western diet with a lower sperm count.
Men in the study who ate a mostly Western diet characterised by pizza, fries, sweets, sodas and red and processed meats typically had a lower sperm count — by about 26 million — than men who ate far less of these unhealthy foods. With a Western diet, men also had lower levels of reproductive hormones needed for optimal fertility.
Conversely, men with the healthiest eating habits — with lots of fish, chicken, vegetables, fruits, and water — typically had a sperm count 43 million higher than those who ate the lowest amounts of these foods.
“Your sperm is what you eat,” said coauthor Feiby Nassan of the Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health in Boston.
Diets rich in seafood, poultry, nuts, whole grains, fruits and vegetables provide antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids that are essential for good sperm production, Nassan said by email.
“Our results suggest the possibility of using dietary intervention as a possible approach to improve sperm quality of men in reproductive age,” Nassan said.
A normal sperm count can range from 15 million to 200 million sperm per millilitre of semen.
Sperm quality and certain sex hormone levels have decreased substantially over the past few decades, driven in part by worsening diets in many parts of the world, the researchers note in JAMA Network Open.
The current analysis included 2,935 healthy men in Denmark, ages 19 or 20, on average.