Does diet affect sperm quality?

Research shows an association between a junk food diet and a reduced sperm count

Man eating
Man eating
(Image credit: Rex Features)

Research shows an association between a junk food diet and a reduced sperm count

A recent Harvard Medical School study of 99 men who attended a US fertility clinic found that men with diets high in saturated fat had poorer sperm quality.

Meanwhile vegetable and fish-heavy diets, high intakes of omega-3 fatty acids, were associated with high sperm concentration.

‘The magnitude of the association is quite dramatic and provides further support for the health efforts to limit consumption of saturated fat given their relation with other health outcomes such as cardiovascular disease,’ says Harvard Professor Jill Attaman, who led the study.

The team surveyed the men’s diets and analysed their sperm samples over a four-year time period.

British fertility expert at University of Sheffield, Dr Allan Pacey, says that while the relatively small study doesn’t prove that one causes the other, it does add weight to the argument that a healthy diet benefits male fertility.

'Perhaps unsurprisingly there appeared to be a reasonable association between the two, with men who ate the highest levels of saturated fats having the lowest sperm counts and those eating the most omega-3 polyunsaturated fats having the highest.'

Human Reproduction reports that further work needs to be carried out to confirm the findings.

It was acknowledged that none of the men had sperm counts defined as 'low' by the World Health Organisation, and that 71% of the participants were overweight, which is also a factor in sperm quality.


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