Diet Can Swiftly Affect Sperm Quality: Study
Sun, April 11, 2021

Diet Can Swiftly Affect Sperm Quality: Study

A variety of risk factors can affect a man's sperm quality, and lifestyle factors have the most profound effects. Researchers at Linköping University in Sweden found that the influence of diet on sperm arises in as early as one to two weeks / Photo by: ariadna126 via 123RF

 

A variety of risk factors can affect a man's sperm quality, and lifestyle factors have the most profound effects. Researchers at Linköping University in Sweden found that the influence of diet on sperm arises in as early as one to two weeks.

In their study, the researchers fed a sugar-rich diet to healthy young men to see its effect on their sperm quality. The results of their study, published in the journal PLOS Biology, provide new insight into the sperm's function and may even contribute to new diagnostic methods to measure sperm quality.

 

Investigating Sperm Quality

The researchers wanted to look into the epigenetic phenomena involving physical properties or levels of changes in gene expression even when the genetic material (DNA sequence) is not changed.

They examined 15 non-smoking young men who followed a diet based on the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations for healthy eating for two weeks. The only exception to the diet is that the researchers added another 50$ of their daily calories in sugar—about 3.5 liters of fizzy drinks or 450 grams of confectionary—during the second week of the experiment.

Examining their sperm quality at the beginning of the study, the scientists found that one-third of the participants had low sperm motility (the ability to move independently using metabolic energy).

A statement from Linköping University reveals that motility is among the several factors influencing sperm quality. It notes that a fraction of the men with low sperm motility in the study reflects that of the general population.

However, analysis of this indicator at the end of the study resulted in an interesting finding: The participants' sperm motility became normal.

"The study shows that sperm motility can be changed in a short period, and seems to be closely coupled to diet," said lead author Anita Öst, a senior lecturer in the Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine at Linköping University.

"This has important clinical implications," the lead author added. "But we can’t say whether it was the sugar that caused the effect, since it may be a component of the basic healthy diet that has a positive effect on the sperm."

Male Fertility

Results also show changes in the small RNA fragments, which are associated with sperm motility. 

Öst said the changes in the motility of the sperm can be linked to the specific molecules influenced by a man's diet. She noted that their study unraveled rapid effects that are "noticeable after one to two weeks."

The Linköping University scientists are planning to further their research to determine whether the RNA code can be used for new diagnostic techniques to measure sperm quality in vitro fertilization. They are also looking to investigate a probable link between the RNA fragments in sperm and male fertility.

Sperm motility is among the most important factors of fertility among men. Poor levels of this factor can lead to infertility, which affects 48.5 million couples (15%) worldwide.

Out of that percentage, males are solely responsible for 20 to 30% of infertility cases and contribute to 50% of the total cases, according to global estimates.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the risk factors of infertility among men include:

• Age - in which men over 40 years old may be less fertile.
• Smoking - increases the risk of erectile dysfunction and low sperm count. 
• Drinking habits - in which heavy alcohol consumption can decrease sperm count and motility.
• Being overweight and lack of exercise - which may contribute to lower sperm count.

Most types of fertility in men aren't preventable, Mayo Clinic says, although there are ways to help lower the chances. This includes avoiding drug and tobacco use as well as too much alcohol consumption and exposure to toxins, and limiting medications that may affect fertility.

Heart-Healthy Diet for Quality Sperm

To have better quality sperm, a study of 209 male college students recommended eating heart-healthy food like the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet or a Mediterranean-style diet.

Using food questionnaires, the researchers from the University of Murcia School of Medicine in Spain examined how much the participants consumed the main foods found in heart-healthy diets. They also looked into how frequent the participants consumed the foods known to minimize the risk of common chronic diseases.

The study found that the participants who closely followed a DASH diet had 65% higher sperm counts compared to those whose eating habits don't follow the said diet, which highlights high consumptions of vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, fish, and poultry.

Those who followed the DASH diet also resulted in 74% higher total motile sperm count and 31% more sperm with a normal size and shape, Reuters reports.

Audrey Gaskins, a researcher at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta, told Reuters that young men are still susceptible to the effects of poor eating habits.

"Even in young, healthy men with overall good semen quality, we still see an association between a healthier diet and better semen quality," Gaskins, who did not partake in the study, said via email.

To have better quality sperm, a study of 209 male college students recommended eating heart-healthy food like the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet or a Mediterranean-style diet / Photo by: Andrea De Martin via 123RF