Diet and Fertility: Does food increase sperm count?
July 25, 2022
At Austin Urology Institute we tackle many complex diagnosis with males and females alike. One of the most frustrating diagnosis for patient and partner is that of male infertility. It’s a complex topic and several factors can play a role in fertility. One factor that is often overlooked is diet.
Male infertility means that there’s a problem with the man’s reproductive system that impacts his ability to get a female partner pregnant. Low semen quality — including low sperm count, impaired motility, and sperm abnormalities — is a leading contributor to male infertility.
Some studies show that the quality of male semen has declined by 50–60% over the last 40 years. There is a connection between diet and fertility, and specific foods can help or increase fertility for men.
In general, the recommended foods for overall health can also support male fertility. So, what are the best foods for fertility? Diets rich in seafood, poultry, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, like the Mediterranean diet, are associated with better quality semen in men.
Health and nutritional professionals commonly recommend the Mediterranean diet to protect against heart disease and type II diabetes. Eating well for you and your swimmers not only supports conception; it can also protect your health and wellbeing for years to come.
A strong adherence to a healthy dietary pattern based mainly on plant foods and fish is positively correlated with indicators of sperm quality.
The amount and quality of the nutrients introduced can affect sperm quality by acting on sperm energetic metabolism. Then, diets rich in saturated fatty acids and low in polyunsaturated fats negatively affect sperm quality, whereas dietary unsaturated fatty acid supplementation improves sperm quality.
A low-protein diet, as well as the deficiency of some specific amino acids have been considered a potential risk factor for male-factor infertility.
Fats, carbohydrates, and proteins affect sperm quality by acting on oxidative stress and testosterone levels, whose common target are the mitochondria. The mitochondria are key organelle supporting several sperm functions.
In fact, the administration of omega-3 fatty acids, determined an increase in the activities of mitochondrial enzymes involved in gamete energetic metabolism and a reduction in oxidative damage.
Best foods for fertility in men
Salmon is a great source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat. One 3-ounce serving of salmon contains about 1.8 g of omega-3 fats and the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Olive oil contains high amounts of monounsaturated fats, polyphenols (beneficial plant compounds), and vitamin E that have antioxidant effects in the body. One tablespoon contributes about 13% of the daily value of vitamin E
Lean dairy products like low-fat milk, cheese, and yogurt are a natural source of calcium (one cup contains around 25% of the daily value) and high-quality protein while containing less saturated fat than their full-fat counterparts. Calcium is a key component of sperm production and motility.
Brazil nuts have a smooth, oily texture; however, they are quite large compared to other nuts and can be a bit tougher to bite. One Brazil nut offers around 90 micrograms (mcg) of selenium, or 163% of the daily recommended amount. Selenium is an essential mineral and is found in seminal fluids.
Some other essential dietary items that can boost fertility are spinach, whole grains, oysters, walnuts, dark chocolate, and bell pepper.
Foods to avoid for male fertility
While including the foods above may improve sperm quality, some dietary choices are associated with poorer semen measures, hindering fertility.
Foods, drinks, or additives that may hurt male productive health include:
- Red and processed meat
- Saturated fat (the primary fat in meat, poultry, and butter)
- Added sugars
But don’t fret. This doesn’t mean you have to forego your daily cup of coffee. It’s important to note that poorer semen quality and fertility were primarily observed when these foods were eaten in excess and when diets lacked fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
Male infertility can be a stressful and complex issue and the dietary factors listed above can aid in making the process less stressful. Here at Austin Urology Institute we encourage healthy diet and lifestyle modification as first line therapy to hopefully boost those semen quality numbers.
Afeiche, M. C., Bridges, N. D., Williams, P. L., et al. (2014). Dairy intake and semen quality among men attending a fertility clinic. Fertility and Sterility, 101(5), 1280–1287. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2014.02.003. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24636397/
Fallah, A., Mohammad-Hasani, A., & Colagar, A. H. (2018). Zinc is an Essential Element for Male Fertility: A Review of Zn Roles in Men’s Health, Germination, Sperm Quality, and Fertilization. Journal of Reproduction & Infertility, 19(2), 69–81. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6010824/
Falsig, A. L., Gleerup, C. S., & Knudsen, U. B. (2019). The influence of omega-3 fatty acids on semen quality markers: a systematic PRISMA review. Andrology, 7(6), 794–803. doi:10.1111/andr.12649. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31116515/
Ferramosca A, Zara V. Diet and Male Fertility: The Impact of Nutrients and Antioxidants on Sperm Energetic Metabolism. Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Feb 25;23(5):2542. doi: 10.3390/ijms23052542. PMID: 35269682; PMCID: PMC8910394.
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