The quality of sperm in men has over the years been linked to various factors, some true, and some obviously untrue. Erectile strength and high libido are most often confused with high quality semen and high male fertility. This is erroneous. The quality of sperm is measured in terms of total number of sperm cells per unit volume of semen produced, how active these sperm cells are, how many are alive and how many dead at ejaculation, and the ratio of well-formed sperm cells to abnormally formed ones.
Many studies have been done to show the effects of various items and conditions on the quality of sperm cell and we are quite aware of many of these. Several lifestyle factors have been associated with male fertility, including smoking, heavy marijuana use, alcohol intake, cocaine use, and exposure of the testes to heat. Some studies even hint on effects of radio frequencies like those used by cellphones and radiations from X rays. Few studies have examined the impact of diet on men’s reproductive potential. A study was carried out by Attaman J.A., et al and published in Human Reproduction recently which points an accusing finger at dietary fat as a culprit in reduced sperm quality and therefore, diminished fertility in men.
The study confirmed that men who consumed large quantities of dietary fat had significantly lower sperm production and concentration than men who had lower fat intake.
Sperm count and concentration were about 40% lower in men whose diet derived 37% or more of calories as fat or 13% or more of calories as saturated fat, as compared with men who had less fat intake. The strength of the association increased after controlling for body mass index (BMI) and other lifestyle factors.
Also, higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids was noted to be associated with better sperm morphology.
Dr. Jill Attaman et al had this to say “Given the limitations of the current study, in particular, the fact that it is a cross-sectional analysis and that it is the first report of a relation between dietary fat and semen quality, it is essential that these findings be reproduced in future work,”
Diet was accessed using a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ).
The crude analysis showed that a 5% increase in dietary fat intake was associated with an 18% decrease in sperm count. The association appeared to be driven by saturated fat, as a 5% increase in saturated fat calories at the expense of carbohydrate calories was associated with a 38% reduction in sperm count.
Limitations in the study include:
1. An FFQ (food frequency questionnaire) to assess habitual dietary intake is prone to measurement error.
2. The use of disposable chambers for analyzing sperm concentration and motility may have led to an underestimation of sperm concentration in men with low sperm count
More detailed report of this study may be found here
Attaman JA, et al “Dietary fat and semen quality among men attending a fertility clinic” Hum Reprod 2012; DOI: 10.1093/humrep/des065.
The bottom line is:
A) Men who consumed large quantities of dietary fat had significantly lower sperm production and concentration compared with men who had lower fat intake.
B) Higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids was associated with better sperm morphology.
What do you think?
Your comments and further contributions on this topic are welcome.