A high-fat diet damages sperm quality

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Saturated fatty acids increase the risk of male infertility

Infertility in men could possibly be caused by consuming too much saturated fat. US researchers from Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston have found that a diet high in unsaturated fatty acids results in a significantly reduced sperm production.

As reported by the scientists around Jill Attaman from Harvard Medical School in the online edition of the specialist journal "Human Reproduction", the number of spermatozoa in men with particularly high fat consumption was significantly lower in the context of their current study than in the other test subjects. The researchers attributed the effect to the saturated fatty acids it contains. In the case of unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, however, an opposite effect has been demonstrated. Here, the increased consumption brought with it a slightly improved sperm production, according to Attaman and colleagues.

Relationship between nutrition and sperm quality
As part of their study, the US researchers examined the sperm of 99 men, the average age of 36, who had received medical treatment for reproductive problems. 71 percent of the subjects were overweight or obese (body mass index higher than 25) and most of the study participants (67 percent) were non-smokers throughout their lives. The researchers not only checked the quality of the test persons' sperm, but also asked the study participants about their eating habits in order to draw conclusions about possible relationships. In addition, Jill Attaman and colleagues used gas-liquid chromatography (GLC) to examine the fatty acids in sperm and seminal plasma in more detail in 23 study participants.

Increased fat intake has a negative effect on sperm Overall, the increased "fat intake was negatively related to the total number of sperm and their concentration," write the US researchers. The men in the highest third of the total fat intake had a 43 percent lower sperm count and a 38 percent lower sperm concentration in the ejaculate than the test subjects in the lower third with fat consumption, according to Jill Attaman. With the help of the GLC, the connection could be attributed to the increased intake of saturated fatty acids. The unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, on the other hand, even brought a slight increase in the amount of sperm. This was 1.9 percent higher for the subjects in the top third of the intake of omega-3 fatty acids than for the study participants from the bottom third, the US researchers report.

Changing your diet if you don't want to have children? The US reproductive doctors come to the conclusion that a "high intake of saturated fats has a negative effect on the sperm concentration", while a "higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids has a positive effect on the sperm morphology". However, Jill Attaman conceded that "studies with larger samples are urgently needed" to confirm these results. "Her investigation provides a first basis for taking a closer look at the influence of fatty foods on male fertility . The relationship between obesity and infertility has been studied in some previous studies, but has never been confirmed. Even in the current study by the US doctors, only an impairment of the sperm concentration was found, which in no way would have led to the infertility of the men. In view of the fact that a diet low in saturated fats and high in omega-3 fatty acids is generally considered health-promoting, the US researchers recommend attempting a dietary change in the case of reproductive problems. (fp)

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