It has been widely proven by numerous scientific studies that dietary fat intake has many health implications; more specifically, high saturated fats in the diet increase risks for cardiovascular diseases. Until recently, however, there has been no study that has looked into a possible link between dietary fat intake and fertility, particularly in men. A small study, published in the European journal Human Reproduction, found that the type of fat consumed and the amount of consumption of these fats may affect sperm quality.
The study involved evaluating the daily diet and analyzing sperm samples of 99 men who were attending a fertility clinic from December 2006 to August 2010. Lead researcher Professor Jill Attaman, Instructor in Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology at Harvard Medical School and Clinical Research Fellow in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at Massachusetts General Hospital, said their results indicate a link between dietary fats and sperm quality.
The findings revealed that high total fat in the diet may be associated with reduced total sperm count and concentration. Based on the World Health Organization’s definition, total sperm count is considered normal when there are at least 39 million sperm in the ejaculate; total sperm concentration is normal when there are at least 15 million spermatozoa per milliliter of ejaculate. Using the sperm samples from the study participants and comparing analysis of these samples to their regular fat intake, the researchers found that those men with the highest saturated fat intake had a total sperm count that was 35 percent lower and a sperm concentration that was 38 percent lower than men who had the lowest saturated fats in their diet.
Conversely, participants who had higher omega-3 polyunsaturated fat intake (from fish and plant oils, for example) showed better sperm quality, with a 1.9 percent higher number of correctly formed sperm, than those with a lower intake of these health fats.
Stating the relevance of these findings, Professor Attaman added, “In the meantime, if men make changes to their diets so as to reduce the amount of saturated fat they eat and increase their omega-3 intake, then this may not only improve their general health, but could improve their reproductive health too. At a global level, adopting these healthy lifestyle modifications may improve general health, as high saturated fat diets are known to be a risk factor for a range of cardiovascular diseases; but, in addition, our research suggests that it could be beneficial for reproductive health worldwide.”