We know that nutrition has a massive impact on our sperm health, and whilst sugar might taste great, we all know it’s not the healthiest part of our diet. But if you’ve got a sweet tooth, does that spell disaster for your sperm health? Here we’ll break down all the facts on sugar and male fertility.
The Impact of sugar on male fertility
When it comes to fertility nutrition, the Mediterranean Diet reigns supreme. That’s because it’s rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and pretty low on super fatty foods or foods high in sugar. Sugar can play around with our hormone levels, and our gut health and increase the risk of inflammation in the body, which are all factors that can contribute to poor fertility – directly or indirectly.
Sperm Quality and Testicle Function
A scientific review reveals that people who had a sugar-rich diet were more likely to have low motility – which means sperm find it hard to swim or don’t swim at all. This link was supported by a 2014 study that examined the link between sugar and sperm motility, whilst another study found that men who drank high levels of sugar-sweetened drinks were more likely to have issues with sperm count.
Increased risk of obesity
A diet rich in sugar also increases your chance of obesity. Whilst there are still some controversies around the use of BMI as a health marker, there is lots of research to indicate that a high BMI correlates with poor male fertility. Of course, diet is not the only thing that can contribute to being overweight. If you are leading a sedentary lifestyle, not looking after your mental and physical well-being and are eating a diet full of sugar and fat on top of that, it’s highly likely that you will struggle with weight gain – and you might also find your sperm health suffers too.
Increased risk of diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a condition that causes your blood sugar to become too high and is linked to issues with the hormone, insulin. When you develop Type 2 diabetes – and before that, prediabetes – your body becomes resistant to insulin and this can cause havoc in the body and trigger oxidative stress. This can have a knock-on effect on your fertility and some research has shown that diabetic men are more likely to struggle with low testosterone and other poor sperm health parameters. Whilst eating sugar might not directly increase your risk of Type 2 diabetes, you are more likely to develop the condition if you are overweight, so there is an important link to be aware of.
What about artificial sweeteners?
For people trying to avoid sugar, artificial sweeteners sound like a great idea – all the great taste of sugar with none of the health implications, right? Well not exactly. There is increasing research to indicate that sweeteners can be just as harmful to our health as excessive sugar consumption – and that goes for our fertility too.
Aspartame is one of the most common artificial sweeteners, used across the globe in products like diet soft drinks and ‘sugar-free’ chewing gum. However, in some animal studies, aspartame has been linked to male fertility issues. In one study, researchers analysed adult mice who were given aspartame and noticed a negative impact on testosterone levels, sperm health and count and there were even signs of DNA fragmentation.
Another popular artificial sweetener, Stevia, which is often used for weight loss, seems to have a similar impact. Rats involved in a study analysing the impact of Stevia on male fertility found that the sweetener was associated with lower sperm count, lower testosterone levels and even reduced testicle size!
Whilst we’re still waiting for more extensive research to be done on humans – it’s clear that artificial sweeteners should probably be avoided if you’re trying to conceive!
Do I need to be worried about the sugar in fruit affecting my fertility?
The short answer here is no. There are naturally occurring sugars in all fruits and many vegetables – and trying to avoid these would also mean you miss out on all the nutritional value these food groups bring. Fruits and vegetables are some of the best sperm health superfoods you can eat to support your fertility. Dark leafy greens are full of folate, berries are rich in antioxidants and citrus fruits are great sources of Vitamin D – and that’s just the start!
There is no research to imply that the sugars in fruit and vegetables will have a direct impact on your sperm health – and in fact, studies show that men who eat a diet rich in fruit and veg are more likely to have healthy sperm.
So does this mean that I have to stop eating sugar?
Some people find that giving up sugar completely has a broad range of benefits for their health, but we’re not saying that’s what you have to do. Generally, the men whose sperm health is impacted the most are the ones who are consuming sugar to excess. The occasional cake or chocolate bar is not going to make you infertile, but it might be helpful to find ways to reduce or limit your sugar intake if you’re concerned about your fertility, health or weight.
Here are our top three tips:
- Cut out fizzy drinks – these drinks are full of sugar (whether that’s raw sugar or artificial sweeteners) and have no nutritional value. Cutting these out will make a massive difference to your sugar consumption without you even realising it.
- Have healthy snacks on hand – we often reach for something sugary when we need an energy boost. Having sperm superfoods like berries, nuts and seeds on hand can help curb those cravings.
- Cook at home – It’s really hard to be aware of your sugar consumption if you are living off takeaways and meals out. Sugar is added to so many things you wouldn’t always think about – like curries and dressings – so cooking at home will help you be more in control of what you’re eating.
Wondering how you can check yours or your partner’s fertility? The ExSeed at-home sperm test allows you to track and monitor your sperm count and motility without leaving the house, showing you a live close-up of your sperm cells! Click here to learn more.