Western diet may worsen men’s fertility

Men who eat Western diets—defined as high in red and processed meats, refined grains, and sweets—may have lower sperm quality and testicular function compared to men who eat healthier diets, according to a new study by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researchers and Danish colleagues.

The study, published February 5, 2020 in JAMA Network Open, is the largest to examine diet patterns and men’s fertility.

Using health and dietary data from 3,000 Danish men, the researchers compared four eating patterns: Western; a generally healthy “prudent” diet emphasizing fish, chicken, vegetables and fruit, and water; a “vegetarianlike” pattern avoiding red meats and chicken; and a traditional Danish dietary pattern emphasizing open-faced cold sandwiches with processed meats.

They found that men consuming a Western diet had the lowest total median sperm count (122 million), while those who followed the prudent pattern had the highest (167 million). Median sperm counts were 151 million for vegetarianlike diets and 146 million for the Danish pattern.

The study’s first author, Feiby Nassan, a research fellow in the Departments of Environmental Health and Nutrition, said in an April 7 Urology Today article that while causality can’t be implied from the study, the results were consistent with previous studies.

“I do not think we have to wait for the perfect controlled blinded clinical trial to happen until we change behavior,” she said. “We really have little or nothing to lose if we follow a generally healthy diet.”

Read the Urology Today article: Unhealthy diet associated with poor semen quality