Does the Western diet kill sperm and lower testosterone?

Is sperm heading towards extinction in western nations? Does the western diet kill sperm and make us less manly? Over 38 years (1973-2011), sperm count in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand dropped by 60%! New research found this is the acceleration of a trend that began in the 1940s.

Other studies reveal simultaneous decline in testosterone: the hormone which builds muscle and bone mass, while boosting sex drive. No one knows definitively why this is happening. The scientific community debates over potential causes like radiation, air pollution and chemicals in our food, clothes and water. Smoking, alcohol consumption and obesity are likely contributing to these results, too.

The Study

One theory blames the poor nutritional quality of the Western diet, according to a study published in JAMA Urology. Author Feiby Nassan said this was the “largest study to date to examine the diet pattern with men’s testicular function.” The findings were a bit scary for American men.

On average, men normally consuming pizza, sweets, and processed foods produced 68 million fewer sperm than men eating a healthier, balanced diet. Low sperm count can negatively impact a man’s ability to empregnate a woman. Additionally, it can be a key indicator for overall male health and life expectancy.

The insightful study examined 2,935 Danish men of normal weight, with a median age of 19. All were undergoing a physical to determine their fitness for military service (mandatory in Denmark for men 18+). Blood and semen samples were taken for analysis. The men also completed a questionnaire asking how often they had eaten 136 food items in the prior three months.

Four food patterns were observed, which included:

1) The “prudent,” healthy pattern, in which fish, chicken, vegetables, fruit and water were mostly consumed.
2) The “open-sandwich pattern,” a more typically Danish diet with a greater intake of cold, processed meats, whole-grain breads, mayonnaise, cold fish, condiments and dairy.
3) The vegetarian-like pattern, with a high intake of vegetables, soy milk and eggs, with little to no red meat or chicken.
4) The “unhealthy” Western pattern, with more pizza, snacks, french fries, sweets, sugar-sweetened drinks, processed and red meat, snacks and highly processed grains

The Results

Men who closely followed the prudent pattern of eating, full of fish, chicken, vegetables, fruit and water, were associated with the highest sperm counts. This was followed by the semi-vegetarian and then the “smørrebrød,” or Danish, eating style.

“The median sperm count of men who had the highest adherence to the ‘prudent’ pattern was 68 million higher than men who had the highest adherence to the ‘Western’ pattern,” Nassan said.

The median sperm count of men adherening to the vegetarian-like pattern was nearly 33 million higher than men following the Western diet.

Suggestions for Improvement

Charles Lindemann is a professor emeritus and researcher at Michigan’s Oakland University. Lindemann did not participate in the research, but commented on the study’s findings. “This could be an important clue if it holds up to scrutiny,” he said. A diet high in processed foods, he added, “may be responsible for the known trend that has been recorded over the recent past of progressively decreasing sperm counts.”

Nassan said her findings show eating seafood, poultry, nuts, whole grains, fruits and vegetables give the body the antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids ” essential for good sperm production.”

“Changing diet pattern may be a simple and inexpensive change” to protect a man’s testicular function, Nassan said. “I believe that it is not only ‘you are what you eat’ but it is also ‘your sperm is what you eat.’ “

-Your Big Bro