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The Fertility Show


Fatty diets could affect sperm quality

19 March 2012

By Sarah Pritchard

Appeared in BioNews 649

Men who consume a diet rich in saturated fat - the type found in junk food - have lower sperm counts than men whose diets contain low levels of such fats, report scientists.

Indeed, the men in the study who ate the most saturated fat had a 43 percent lower sperm count than the men who ate the least. Furthermore, the team found that having a healthier diet high in omega-3 polyunsaturated fats - found in fish and plant oils - increased the men's chances of having sperm of normal sizes and shapes.

Lead author Dr Jill Attaman, from the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Centre in the USA, said: 'If men make changes to their diets so as to reduce the amount of saturated fat they eat and increase their omega-3 intake, then this may not only improve their general health, but could improve their reproductive health too'.

Ninety-nine men attending fertility clinics at Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School took part in the study. Dr Attaman and her co-workers caution that as there were a small number of participants, further research is required to conclusively establish a link between junk food intake and low sperm quality.

In addition, 71 percent of the study participants were overweight or obese. However, the researchers say this factor was taken into account, as they showed the frequency was no different to that found in the general US population.

Dr Attaman told ABC News that there are not many clearly identifiable lifestyle modifications that can be made to optimise natural fertility and that 'this is the first report of a relationship between specific dietary fats and semen quality'.

The study results were published in the journal Human Reproduction.

In a separate systematic review in the Archives of Internal Medicine, a research team working from the Harvard School of Public Health report that overweight and obese men are more likely to have low sperm counts or no sperm at all than their normal-weight peers.

The findings are a combination of those from 14 studies that compared sperm count in groups of men of varying weights. Specifically, overweight men were 11 percent more likely to have a low sperm count than their normal-weight peers, and 39 percent more likely to have no sperm.

One suggested explanation is that male hormones may be converted into the female hormone oestrogen in fat tissue, which could affect sperm production, say the researchers.


21 September 2015 - by Dr Lanay Tierney 
Decades of advice on the protective effects of omega-3 fatty acids are being challenged by a study of the genomes of the Inuit population in Greenland...
02 September 2013 - by Dr Shanya Sivakumaran 
Two UK newspapers have proclaimed the fertility-boosting benefits of the raspberry, with NHS Choices branding the claims 'misleading'...
11 July 2013 - by Siobhan Chan 
Obese women have a much lower chance of having a baby than those with a normal BMI when using a donated egg, according to a study of almost 10,000 women...
18 March 2013 - by Simon Hazelwood-Smith 
Human semen quality may rise and fall in seasonal variation, with the best quality being produced in the winter and spring...
11 February 2013 - by Dr Linda Wijlaars 
Physical activity is strongly associated with men's sperm quality according to a study looking into the effects of TV viewing and exercise...

12 March 2012 - by Dr Rosie Gilchrist 
Nine NHS primary care trusts (PCTs) have introduced restrictions to IVF treatment for patients who smoke or are overweight...
05 December 2011 - by Luciana Strait 
Ejaculated sperm has been shown to be significantly damaged by prolonged exposure to a WiFi connected laptop. A study, published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, found that after four hours of exposure there was a significant decrease in sperm motility and an increase in sperm DNA fragmentation....
15 August 2011 - by Dr Tamara Hirsch 
Rhythmic activity detected in newly fertilised mouse eggs may provide a novel and non-invasive screening method for identifying embryos most likely to survive a full-term pregnancy, according to research published in Nature Communications...
13 June 2011 - by Kyrillos Georgiadis 
A new fertility test for men which can detect DNA damage in sperm has been developed in the UK. The test, called SpermComet, could save couples undergoing fertility treatment both time and money, since it will allow clinics to fast-track patients to the most appropriate treatment, say its developers...
24 January 2011 - by Dr Rachael Panizzo 
Promiscuity may increase the fertility of male offspring, a new study has found. Australian researchers demonstrated that males from polygamous breeds of mice out-compete monogamous males in the race to fertilise females and produce offspring....

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