If you’re looking to conceive, but have a penchant for pizza, chips and kebabs, you might want to change your diet – new scientific research has been released that shows that eating lots of fatty foods isn’t just bad news for your waistline, it can also lower your sperm count.
A team of Danish medical experts has found that men who eat the most saturated fat have significantly lower sperm counts than others in the survey who consumed the least. The findings could be significant in international terms as overall sperm counts have fallen by more than half in the Western world over the past 60 years – while the use of saturated fats has skyrocketed.
In the new study, 701 20-year old Danish men were examined when they applied for military service. They answered questions about their diet and provided a semen sample. Unlike most other research that has been conducted into sperm quality, the Danish study is notable because the men tested were not looking for fertility treatment and so had lifestyles more in keeping with normal day-to-day life.
The men who ate the most saturated fats had, on average, an average of 45 million sperm per millilitre, compared to 50 million sperm p/m for those who ate the least fat. With a sperm count above 20 million sperm per millilitre classed as normal by the World Health Organisation, 18% of men in the highest-saturated fat group fell below the threshold, in comparison to 13% in the lowest-fat group, indicating that, while saturated fats are not the only cause, they are a contributory factor.
The author of the study, Tina Jensen, told the news agency Reuters: “’We cannot say that it has a causal effect, but I think other studies have shown that saturated fat intake has shown a connection to other problems and now also for sperm count. I think obesity is another cause, but saturated fats could also be a possible explanation.”
Jensen said that the research team next planned to see if cutting down on saturated fats would see sperm counts rise.
The studies aren’t the first to establish that eating well helps towards healthy sperm and fertility – just last year, a Brazilian project found that eating grains like wheat, oats and barley increased the sperm count, while eating fruit was linked to their agility and speed. This new research, however, is notable for its better representation of the ’average male’, and has provided the strongest link so far between saturated fats and male factor fertility problems.
Saturated fats should not exceed 11% of your total energy intake. They are found in processed meats, pastries, biscuits, cakes, pies and fried food, also in butter, coconut and cheese. As well as affecting sperm count and motility, eating saturated fats can also result in raised cholesterol in the blood and increased risk of heart disease. Not all fats are bad for you – high consumption of Omega3 fatty acids, as found in oily fish such as salmon, is believed to contribute to good sperm quality. Folic acid is another natural substance that helps to keep your sperm count high and, to maximise your intake, eat plenty of fresh dark green vegetables like spinach and broccoli.
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