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Blowing raspberries: year-old fertility study yields belated headlines

2 September 2013
Appeared in BioNews 720

Two UK newspapers have proclaimed the fertility-boosting benefits of the raspberry, with NHS Choices branding the claims 'misleading'.

The Daily Mail's piece sets out to explain 'how eating raspberries could increase your chances of being a father'. 'With sperm counts in the average British male falling by almost half in the past 60 years', the article says, 'experts have claimed raspberries maybe the saviour to help fathers-to-be'. The Daily Express tells a similar story.

The source appears to be a study of 80 healthy male volunteers from 2012. The study, carried out by researchers from three US universities and the University of Bradford in the UK, used questionnaires to estimate each participant's average daily nutrient intake, and looked at the relationship between these nutrient intake estimates and DNA damage in the men's sperm.

They found that levels of sperm DNA damage were significantly related to overall antioxidant intake (including Vitamins C and E, and beta-carotene), as well as with Vitamin C alone, with those with a higher intake having less sperm DNA damage. This relationship was seen only when a technique called alkaline DNA electrophoresis was used for the analysis and not another method (neutral DNA electrophoresis).

The researchers acknowledge that one of the study's limitations was that none of the participants had fertility problems, so the findings may not be applicable to such people. Also, the apparent relationship between the nutrients and sperm DNA damage could in fact be mediated by a number of associated lifestyle factors. For example, those with a healthier diet may exercise more which might be the real reason behind the lower level of DNA damage.

Finally, despite the New York Daily News article saying that 'the study showed men over 44 with the highest intake of vitamin C had 20 percent less damage to their sperm DNA than men who did not eat raspberries', there is no mention of raspberries in the original study.

The Daily Mail adds the comments of nutritionist Juliet Wilson who labels raspberries as 'a perfect snack for couples trying to conceive'.

Claims raspberries boost fertility 'misleading'
NHS Choices |  28 August 2013
How eating raspberries could increase your chances of becoming a father
Mail Online |  26 August 2013
Micronutrients intake is associated with improved sperm DNA quality in older men
Fertility and Sterility |  28 August 2012
Raspberries ‘boost fertility’
Daily Express |  26 August 2013
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