Can diet and weight really affect men's fertility?

27th March 2012 in Fertility

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If you’re planning a pregnancy it makes sense to ensure you’re as healthy as possible, and for men even more so as two new studies have shown that both diet and weight can affect sperm quality.

An international study found that heavy men are more likely than those with normal weights to have low sperm counts or even be producing sperm at all.

And how much overweight a man is really counts – results found that overweight men were 11 per cent more likely to have a low sperm count, and 39 per cent more likely to have no sperm. But obese men were 42 per cent more likely to have a low sperm count, and 81 per cent more likely to not be producing sperm.

Researchers were quick to point out that this doesn’t mean obese men are more likely to have fertility troubles – but along with previous other studies which have shown a link between weight and sperm quality, it’s yet another reason for men to consider their own health before trying for a baby with their partner.

And sperm quality may also be affected by what you eat. A new US study has linked high saturated fat intake with a reduced sperm count.

Sperm samples were analysed for four years whilst the men were questioned about their diet. Men with the highest fat intake had 43 per cent lower sperm count and 38 per cent lower sperm concentration than men who ate the least amount of fat as part of their diet. It also showed a link between consumption of omega-3 rich foods, such as oily fish. Men who ate the most omega-3 had sperm with a more normal structure than those who ate hardly any.

But again, more work is needed to expand on these findings, as over 70 per cent of the men in this latest study were overweight or obese – which brings us back to the results of the first study.

So what does this all mean if you’re planning a pregnancy? Whilst neither of these studies show that weight or diet ‘causes’ fertility problems, it does show an association between the two and that sperm can be affected by what you weigh and what you eat.

We’re often asked if there’s anything you can do to improve sperm quality, and our answer is always the same – make sure you have a healthy diet , your weight is healthy and so is your lifestyle, including keeping a close eye on how much you alcohol you drink and how much you smoke. There is no miracle for making your sperm the best it can be, except to take the best care of yourself as you can.

Last updated: 26th March 2012