Nutrition, Diet and the Effects on Fertility

There has been a lot of debate around the cause of the significant decline in semen quality. While genetics, endocrine system, obesity, age, and smoking are known risk factors for a decreased sperm quality [1], there is increasing evidence that nutrition and diet also play an important role in men’s fertility[2],[3].

In this article, we will look at the connections between nutrition, diet and fertility. The decrease in sperm concentration is pronounced in most Western countries [4] [5], which might have a connection with the fact that the average “Western-type” diet has changed dramatically over the past 50 years. 

Today’s diet typically consists of higher intake of calories, processed meat, added fat, snacks, and sweetened-sugar beverages. This diet can have a negative impact on semen parameters and overall health of the population. However, a number of studies indicate that a diet rich in fish/seafood, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, whole grain foods, poultry, and nuts like walnuts may benefit sperm quality [6]. 

What type of diet should I avoid?

It’s not easy to define what a “bad” diet is, because it involves many parameters. But the general one is a diet that fails to provide the body with the right amount and type of nutrients and doesn’t promote good health. Food is the primary source to cover our energy needs and repairing our body. However, overconsumption of food has led to an unprecedented increase in obesity rates in the last decades, causing metabolic disorders such as an abnormal function of the male reproductive system [7].

Another focus nowadays is the negative impact of certain foods on our health. The consumption of these foods relates to a series of health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. This is in addition to the worsening of semen parameters, such as sperm concentration and motility.

Most dangerous foods for male fertility

Meat and dairy products high in saturated fat [8]: Animal products are the main source of saturated fat, which is a type of fatty acid (single bonded fatty acids) that is considered less healthy. Researchers from Denmark who monitored 701 young men found that sperm concentration and total sperm count were lower among men with a higher intake of saturated fat.

Soy and phytoestrogens: Phytoestrogen is a certain type of naturally occurring chemicals found in many fruits and vegetables. These chemicals are also called endocrine disruptors (see our blog on endocrine disruptors) because they can mimic the estrogens in our body and interfere with the production of the hormones that are normally responsible for reproduction [9].

Soybeans and soy products are the major sources of dietary phytoestrogens. The highest content is in soy flour, isolated soy protein, tofu, tempeh, and soy milk.

Sweetened beverages and snacks: Many products in supermarkets, like soft drinks and cereals, carry high amounts of sugar. Excessive consumption of these products can increase oxidative stress, which can negatively influence sperm motility. In a 2010 study where 2,554 Danish young men were recruited according to their diet choices, it was shown that a high intake of coke was associated with reduced sperm concentration and sperm count [10].

Increasing fertility: The benefits of a healthy diet

The Mediterranean diet has a high intake of vegetables, fruits, seafood, and healthy fats. It has plenty of well-established health benefits, such as strong anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects. It is also related to lower coronary heart disease incidences and higher life expectancy [11].

Now what……?

Selecting the right diet and nutrition for fertility benefits can be a big task. This because it involves many complex combinations of nutrients. However, diets like the Mediterranean diet, which are high in vital nutrients and fibers, seem to have a positive impact. They can lower the risk of health implications and show protective effects and improvements on male fertility.

Take a look at our other blog articles on nutrition. Learn more about superfoods or micronutrients to boost your sperm quality and start your healthy routines today!

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