Fatty Foods Might Harm Men's Sperm, Research
WEDNESDAY, March 14 (HealthDay News) -- Could the fatty foods a
man eats harm his fertility? So says a new study that finds chowing
down on high-fat meals reduces a man's sperm levels.
The study was small, including just 99 American men who were
divided into three groups based on their overall consumption of
Those with the highest daily fat intake had a 43 percent lower
total sperm count and 38 percent lower sperm concentration than
those with the lowest fat intake, according to the study published
online March 14 in the journal
"Although this study is limited by the number of patients evaluated, I do think it tells us something important in that it reminds us that male fertility is delicate and can be easily influenced by the same things that influence our general health," said Dr. Joseph Alukal, director of male reproductive health at NYU Langone Medical Center and assistant professor at the NYU School of Medicine, New York City.
"It is one more good piece of evidence reminding us that simple health interventions like diet and exercise can be beneficial with regard to improving sperm counts and having a child," added Alukal, who was not involved in the new study.
Total sperm count refers to the total number of sperm in the
ejaculate, while sperm concentration is the number of sperm in a
certain amount of semen.
The World Health Organization defines normal total sperm count
as at least 39 million sperm in the ejaculate and normal sperm
concentration as at least 15 million sperm per milliliter of
Saturated fats appeared to be the major factor linked to semen
quality in the study. Men who consumed the most saturated fats had
a 35 percent lower total sperm count and a 38 percent lower sperm
concentration than those who ate the least saturated fat, the
Study author Jill Attaman agreed the findings underscore the
importance of a healthy diet. "The magnitude of the association is
quite dramatic and provides further support for the health efforts
to limit consumption of saturated fat given their relation with
other health outcomes such as cardiovascular disease," she said in
a journal news release.
The study also found that men who consumed the most omega-3
fatty acids (the type found in certain fish oils) had about 2
percent more sperm that were correctly formed than those with the
lowest omega-3 intake.
The researchers noted that 71 percent of the men in the study
were overweight or obese, which is close to the 74 percent rate
among men in the general U.S. population.
Alukal stressed that more research is needed to confirm the
findings of this small study. "Certainly more work along these
lines looking at increased numbers of patients for a longer period
of time would be very useful," he said. The study is also
observational in nature, and cannot prove cause-and-effect.
Attaman was a clinical and research fellow in reproductive
endocrinology and infertility at Massachusetts General Hospital and
an instructor in obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology at
Harvard Medical School when she conducted the research. She is
currently an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at
Dartmouth Medical School and a reproductive endocrinology and
infertility subspecialist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics outlines
healthy eating for men.
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