Improved Semen Quality Linked to Better Nutrition

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Audrey Gaskins
Audrey Gaskins

ORLANDO, Fla.—Better nutrition may make for better semen, according to two new studies presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine annual meeting.

One study was conducted by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, the University of Rochester in Rochester, N.Y., and the University of Murcia in Murcia, Spain. The University of Rochester's Young Men's Study recruited men aged 18-22 years. Investigators assessed diets using a questionnaire and assessed semen quality using standard measures of sperm concentration, motility, and morphology in semen samples.

The researchers categorized subjects' diets into two types: a Western diet, characterized by high intakes of red meat and refined grains, or a Prudent diet, with high intakes of fish, vegetables, and whole grains.

Adherence to a Prudent diet was significantly associated with higher sperm motility, but not sperm morphology or sperm concentration. Men in the second, third, and fourth quartiles had a 2.2%, 6.0%, and 11.3% higher percentage motile sperm, respectively compared with men in the lowest quartile after adjusting for abstinence time, multivitamin use, race, smoking status, body mass index, year of recruitment, and exercise level.

“This is the first study to look at this issue in a unselected group of men,” said lead study investigator Audrey Gaskins, a doctoral candidate at Harvard School of Public Health. “Nutrition could possibly be a safe and inexpensive way to improve semen quality.”

“The main reason I wanted to look at this association is that semen quality has been declining for a number of years,” Gaskins told Renal & Urology News.  “We found that a Prudent diet that was high in fruits and vegetables, fish and whole grains was associated with higher motility. We are hoping that will translate into increased fertility but we can't make that jump based on our findings.”

The other study recruited men attending the Fertility Center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.  All the subjects completed food journals and underwent semen analysis. In addition, semen samples of a subset of subjects were chosen for more detailed analysis to measure the level of trans fats.  The study revealed that a diet high in trans-fats was negatively associated with sperm concentration levels. It was positively associated with higher levels of trans-fats in the sperm and seminal plasma.

“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,” commented Edward Kim, MD, who is President of the Society for Male Reproduction and Urology and Professor of Urology at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

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