A man’s diets, specifically the amount and type of different fats they eat, are associated with their semen quality according to the results of a study in the journal Human Reproduction.
The study of 99 men in the USA found a key association between a high total fat intake and lower total sperm count and concentration. It also found that men who ate more omega-3 polyunsaturated fats (the healthy type of fats often found in fish and plant oils) produced better quality sperm than men who ate less.
However, the researchers explained that this is a small study, and its findings need to be replicated by further research in order to be sure about the role played by fats on men’s fertility.
It is suggested that men make changes to their diets to reduce the amount of saturated fat they eat and increase their omega-3 intake. This may not only improve their general health, but could improve their reproductive health too.
At a global level, adopting these lifestyle modifications may improve general health, as high saturated fat diets are known to be a risk factor for a range of cardiovascular diseases; but, in addition, our research suggests that it could be beneficial for reproductive health worldwide.”
A number of previous studies have investigated the link between body mass index (BMI) and semen quality, with mixed results. However, little is known about the potential role of dietary fats and semen quality, the researchers investigated
the relationship in men attending a fertility clinic.
Between December 2006 and August 2010 they questioned the men about their diet and analyzed samples of their semen; they also measured levels of fatty acids in sperm and seminal plasma in 23 of the 99 men participating.
The men were divided into three groups according to the amount of fats they consumed. Those in the third with the highest fat intake had a 43% lower total sperm count and 38% lower sperm concentration than men in the third with the
lowest fat intake. “Total sperm count” is defined as the total number of sperm in the ejaculate, while “sperm concentration” is defined as the concentration of sperm (number per unit volume).
The World Health Organization (WHO) provides a definition of “normal” total sperm count and concentration as follows: the total number of spermatozoa in the ejaculate should be at least 39 million; the concentration of spermatozoa
should be at least 15 million per ml.
The study found that the relationship between dietary fats and semen quality was affected by the consumption of saturated fats. Men consuming the most saturated fats had a 35% lower total sperm count than men eating the least, and a 38% lower sperm concentration.
“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,” said the researchers..
It’s important to note… 71% of all the men in the study were overweight or obese, and the health effects of this could also affect semen quality. The researchers made allowances for this. “We were able to isolate the independent effects of fat intake from those of obesity using statistical models,” they explained. “Notably, the frequency of overweight and obesity among men in this study does not
differ much from that among men in the general population in the USA (74%).”
This is the largest study to date examining the influence of specific dietary fats on male fertility. The researchers concluded “Given the limitations of the current study, in particular 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, it is essential that these findings be reproduced in future work.”
Research scientists are continuing to investigate how dietary and lifestyle factors influence fertility in men and women as well as the treatment outcomes of couples undergoing fertility treatment.
Story Source: European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE),
Journal Reference: Human Reproduction, 2012;
European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) (2012, March 12).
This article is for informational and educational purposes only; It is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Consult your doctor or healthcare professional.
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