Less processed meat, more fish and exercise may boost sperm count, quality

Men may be able to boost their sperm counts by eating less processed meats such as bacon, eating more fish, and getting more exercise, according to new research from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). Researchers who looked at lifestyle factors among approximately 150 male infertility patients at Massachusetts General Hospital presented their findings October 14, 2013 at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s annual meeting in Boston.

The researchers found that men who ate between one and three servings of processed meats per day had worse quality sperm than those who ate the fewest servings. Sperm quality was better in men who ate the most white meat fish, like cod or halibut. And men who ate the most fatty fish like salmon, bluefish or tuna had a 34% higher sperm count than those who ate the least amount of fish. “We found the effect of processed meat intake lowered (sperm) quality and fish raised quality,” lead author Myriam Afeiche, research fellow in the HSPH Department of Nutrition, told the Daily Mail.

Another study found an apparent link between men’s exercise—particularly weight lifting—and higher sperm counts. “Weightlifting has been shown to increase testosterone levels and improve insulin sensitivity,” study co-author Audrey Gaskins, a doctoral student in the HSPH Department of Nutrition, told HealthDay. “Both of those have been related to higher sperm concentrations.” Only bicycle riding was found linked with decreased sperm count—perhaps because of pressure from bike seats or increased scrotal temperatures, Gaskins said.

Other research found no negative effect on sperm from alcohol or caffeine use. “Even though caffeine and alcohol are generally considered a risk factor for decreased fertility, we saw no evidence of that,” study co-author Jorge Chavarro, assistant professor of nutrition and epidemiology at HSPH, told HealthDay.

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Excess weight may affect sperm production, reduce fertility in men (HSPH news)