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The Sweet & Sour Science of Sugar and Male Fertility

The Sweet and Sour Science of Sugar and Male Fertility

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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.


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More to explore

Wearing tight pants and underwear

Studies show that men who wear looser underwear have higher sperm concentration and total sperm count compared to men who wear tighter underwear. So, lose the tight clothes and wear something loose to give your testicles some air.

CONCLUSION: learn more about how heat can affect sperm quality here.


Besides higher mortality rate and various diseases, stress is associated with low sperm quality. Stress is known to be associated with lower testosterone levels and oxidative stress with both playing an essential role in producing and maintaining healthy sperm cells.

CONCLUSION: If you feel stressed, we recommend you get some help so you can have a balanced mental health. For a stress management guide, download the ExSeed app for free and start your personalized action plan today.

Physical activity

Scientific studies show that men who are physically active have better semen parameters than men who are inactive. Fertility specialists also state that regular physical activity has beneficial impact on sperm fertility parameters and such a lifestyle can enhance the fertility status of men.

Prioritizing exercise can help improve your overall health and result in healthy, fast swimming sperm cells that have good chances of fertilizing an egg.

CONCLUSION: Try incorporating exercise in your weekly schedule to you ensure exercising at least twice weekly. We recommend a combination of cardio training and strength exercise. Read more about exercise and male fertility on our blog.


Fast Food
Processed foods damage the health of sperm-producing cells and cause oxidative stress, which lead to poorer sperm quality. Heavy consumption of junk food (every week) can increase the likelihood of infertility since men who consume vast amounts of unhealthy food are at risk of having poor sperm quality. Besides harming your fertility, junk food enlarges your waistline, harms your cardiovascular system, kidneys, and more.

Eating more fruit and vegetables can increase your sperm concentration and motility. It’s important that you consume a healthy diet filled with antioxidants and that you eat vegetables every day. Foods such as apricots and red bell peppers are high in vitamin A, which improves male fertility by nurturing healthier sperm. Men who are deficient in this vitamin tend to have slow and sluggish sperm.

Sugary snacks/beverages: several times a week Excessive consumption of high sugar items can lead to oxidative stress, which negatively impacts testosterone levels and sperm motility. Sugary snacks and beverages are also highly associated with obesity and low fertility.
CONCLUSION: To boost sperm quality, stay away from fast food, processed food, and sugary snacks or beverages. You need to implement a healthy prudent diet filled with necessary superfoods needed for good sperm production. Check out our guide to Male Fertility Superfoods. For personalized guidance and support on how you can start improving your sperm health, check out the Bootcamp.


Direct heat can inhibit optimal sperm production and cause Sperm DNA damage. Sperm cells like environments that are a couple of degrees lower than body temperature. Avoid overheating from warm blankets, seat warmers, heat from your laptop, hot showers, and saunas.

Cigarette smoking

The exposure to tobacco smoke has significant negative effects on semen quality. The damage of cigarettes and nicotine of course depends on how many cigarettes you smoke per day and for how long, but even low usage (up to 10 cigarettes / day) can inhibit healthy sperm production.  

CONCLUSION: Stay as far away from cigarette smoking as possible if you care about your general health and your fertility. Read more here.

Cell phone

When you have your cell phone in your front pocket, your testicles are exposed to electromagnetic radiation, which studies have shown to damage the sperm cells. Put your phone in the back pocket of your pants or in your jacket pocket.


There is a clear association between obesity and reduced sperm quality. At least part of the reason for this is that obese men may have abnormal reproductive hormonal profiles, which can impair sperm production and lead to infertility. 

A BMI higher than 30 can lead to several processes in the body (overheating, increase in oxidative stress in the testes, sperm DNA damage, erectile dysfunction) that can have a negative impact on male fertility. This can result in problems when trying to conceive.  

CONCLUSION: BMI is one of the risk factors that influence semen quality and, for example, sperm motility.  


A beer or glass of wine now and then do not really harm sperm quality. But excess alcohol drinking (more than 20 units per week) can reduce the production of normally formed sperm needed for a successful pregnancy.

CONCLUSION: If you want to stay safe, stay under 14 units of alcohol per week. For more information on how alcohol can affect male fertility, take a look at our blog: “Alcohol and Sperm Quality”.


Studies show that women younger than 35 and men younger than 40 have a better chance of getting pregnant. Men can produce sperm cells almost through their entire life, but the sperm cell DNA is more fragile and prone to damage after the age of 40.

As men age, their testes tend to get smaller and softer resulting in a decline in sperm quality and production. These changes are partly because of an age-related decrease in testosterone level, which plays a very important role in sperm

production. Higher male age (>40 years) is not only associated with a decline in sperm production but also with increased sperm DNA fragmentation and worsened morphology (shape) and motility (movement). These negative effects make the sperm cells less qualified for egg fertilization.

CONCLUSION: with an age under 40, you shouldn’t have to worry much about age as a factor in itself. However, studies have shown a slow decline after the age of 30-35 years

and if you are above 40 years of age, your sperm quality can be affected due to increased sperm DNA damage resulting in a decrease of sperm motility and concentration. Remember that you cannot evaluate the quality of a sperm sample by just looking at it – this requires a sperm analysis.