MONDAY, Oct. 17 (HealthDay News) -- For years, nutritionists
have rallied around the notion that "you are what you eat."
Now, new research suggests this adage might even extend to the
strength and quantity of sperm.
The observation stems from a pair of studies slated for
presentation Monday at the American Society for Reproductive
Medicine annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., both of which highlight
an apparent linkage between nutrition and semen quality.
The upshot: Diets rich in red meat and processed grains seem to
impair the ability of sperm to move about, while diets high in
trans fats appear to lower the amount of sperm found in semen.
"The main overall finding of our work is that a healthy diet seems to be beneficial for semen quality," said Audrey J. Gaskins, lead author of the first study. Currently a doctoral candidate in Harvard School of Public Health's department of nutrition in Boston, Gaskins' colleagues included researchers from both the University of Rochester and the University of Murcia in Spain.
"Specifically, a healthy diet composed of a higher intake of fish, fresh fruit, whole grains, legumes and vegetables seems to improve sperm motility," Gaskins explained, "which means a higher number of sperm actually move around, rather than sit still."
Gaskin's conclusions are based on work with 188 men between the
ages of 18 and 22, who were recruited in Rochester. Food
questionnaires were completed, and participant diets were
categorized as being either "Western" in content (including red
meat, refined carbs, sweets and energy drinks) or so-called
"Prudent" (composed of fish, fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole
Semen tests were then conducted to assess sperm movement,
concentration and shape.
Although diet seemed to have no impact on either sperm shape or
number, motility was impacted, with "Western" diets linked to
reduced movement, even after accounting for factors such as race,
smoking history and body-mass index (BMI).
Gaskins stressed, however, that more work is needed to better
understand exactly how nutrition can affect sperm.
"This was a small study, and we don't know if there's something else about the men that causes them to have worse motility," she noted. "We don't know if nutrition actually causes the change. So, for now all we can say is that there's an association between nutrition and sperm quality."
On a similar front, a second study led by Dr. Jorge Chavarro, an
assistant professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard
School of Public Health, revealed that men who eat diets that
contain a relatively high amount of trans fat had lower sperm
concentration levels. What's more, the amount of trans fat found in
their sperm and semen went up.
The conclusion was drawn from work with nearly 100 men, all of
whom underwent a nutritional and semen quality analysis.
Even after adjusting for a wide array of factors such as age,
drinking and smoking histories, BMI, caffeine intake and total
calories consumed, the authors found that although trans-fat intake
appeared to have no impact on sperm movement of shape, the more
trans fatty acids consumed the lower an individual's sperm
Dr. Edward Kim, from the University of Tennessee's graduate
school of medicine in Knoxville, reacted to both studies with
enthusiasm and caution.
"I think that this research is certainly very suggestive that dietary factors may have an impact on male infertility," said Kim, who also serves as president of the Society for Male Reproduction and Urology.
"And the studies point us in a direction that suggest that a healthy lifestyle may correlate with better quality sperm," he added. "But clearly further research in this area is needed to come up with definitive conclusions."
Because both studies were presented at a medical meeting, the
data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until
published in a peer-reviewed journal.
For more on male infertility, visit the
U.S. National Institute of Child Health & Human
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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