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HSPH Study Says Better Diet Leads to Healthier Sperm

By Cynthia W. Shih, Contributing Writer

Harvard School of Public Health researchers recently found evidence that links nutrition with semen quality, observing that diets rich in processed grains and red meat impaired sperm motility when compared to healthier diets that included fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Male subjects between the ages of 18 and 22 were classified into two different dietary groups based on their responses to a food frequency questionnaire. The first was identified as a Western diet, which was characterized by high intakes of red meat and refined grains, while the other dietary pattern was identified as a Prudent diet, which included high intakes of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and fish.

Researchers looked at three specific sperm quality parameters: sperm concentration, sperm motility, and sperm morphology.

“We saw that the Western pattern diet really had no association with any of the semen quality parameters in our study,” said Audrey J. Gaskins, lead author of the study and a doctoral candidate at the Harvard School of Public Health.

While diet seemed to have no impact on either sperm concentration or morphology, men who consumed the healthier Prudent diet were found to have sperm with significantly greater motility, or ability to move towards the egg.

Gaskins said a possible explanation for this link may lie with the antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables.

“The more natural antioxidant intake you have, the better balance you’ll have between the antioxidants and reactive oxygen species, which decrease sperm quality,” she said.

Gaskins added she hopes to eventually show that, with healthier diets, increases in sperm motility will translate into increased fertility. She is now looking to see if the same association can be made between diet and semen quality for an older male population.

The study’s results were presented on Monday at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine annual meeting in Florida. Gaskins also worked with researchers from the University of Rochester, the University of Murcia in Spain, and the University of Copenhagen in Netherlands.

“We are still exploring the impact of nutrition on male fertility, but even these initial studies point to a link between a good diet and reproductive health for men,” said Edward Kim, President of the Society for Male Reproduction and Urology, in a press release.

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