January 8, 2013
Fatty Diet Reduces Sperm Count In Men By 40%
Alan McStravick for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
If you´ve driven past a McDonald´s lately and you get a tingle of excitement at seeing that the McRib is back, just know that ingesting the saturated fats in that sandwich and the side of fries that inevitably are ordered with it are harmful not only to your health, but also to your attempts at propagating your bloodline.
Previous studies into a link between saturated fats and diminished sperm counts have typically focused on men who were already seeking medical attention to recognize and possibly alleviate their impotence. This new study out of Denmark has traveled a different path to find the same result. While most men seeking help with their sub-fertility tend to be older and married or in a committed relationship, the Danish researchers surveyed and examined 701 young Danish men who were about 20 years old and getting checkups for the military. These examinations occurred between 2008 and 2010.
While surveying the subjects, Tina Jensen, lead author from Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, the Danish capital, and study collaborators asked the young men about the foods they ate over the previous three months. Then they collected semen samples from the subjects. From the results of their observations, researchers then divided the subjects and samples into four groups. These groups were determined dependent upon how much of the men´s energy intake came from saturated fats. They then compared how much sperm each of the men in the groups produced.
Jensen´s study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, was launched amid concern that not only the quantity but also the quality of sperm seems to be in a state of decline in Western countries. Some previous studies even go so far as to show that average sperm counts have fallen by more than half over the past 60 years.
The possible culprit for this decline has been linked to saturated fats. Saturated fats are found in a variety of foods such as butter, processed meats, fried foods and other junk foods that contain hydrogenated oils. Too high of a concentration of saturated fats in your diet can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood which, in turn, increases the risk of heart disease.
What Jensen´s study found was that the young men who got 11.2 percent or less of their energy from saturated fats typically had an average sperm concentration of 50 million per milliliter of semen and a total sperm count of about 163 million.
By contrast, the subjects whose overall energy was derived from more than 15 percent of saturated fats had a more diminished concentration and count of semen. Concentration levels were 45 million per milliliter and an overall count of 128 million.
These findings show that those men who had a higher saturated fat diet had a sperm concentration level some 38 percent lower than those who consumed less saturated fat. Also, the overall counts were 41 percent lower.
According to Jensen, “We cannot say that it has a causal effect, but I think other studies have shown that saturated fat intake has shown a connection to other problems and now also for sperm count.”
A study conducted last year in Brazil did find hope for correcting the slump in sperm quality. In their study, researchers found that eating more grains like wheat, oats and barley could help to improve sperm concentration and motility. Also, they found that fruit could aid in increasing the speed and agility of sperm.
Jensen and her team´s study is not the end of research on this topic. There is no way to determine whether or not other lifestyle factors might also account for the link. Jensen claims her study may only begin to partially explain studies that have found sperm counts decreasing the world over. “I think obesity is another cause, but [saturated fats] could also be a possible explanation,” she said.
In a concession that her research is but a stepping stone to future study, Jensen acknowledged that the direction to go is to try to locate the mechanism by which these saturated fats could influence sperm count. From there, the next logical step would be to conduct trials to see if sperm counts could be improved solely by having subjects cut down on the overall saturated fats in their diets.