Sperm are exquisitely sensitive to dietary fats; studies have shown that when men consume more fish oil - specifically DHA - their sperm quality improves markedly. A 2012 Harvard study has found that eating too much saturated fat may have a deleterious effect on sperm, reducing sperm concentration and sperm counts the research also confirms the positive effects of fish oil on sperm quality.
The Harvard study recorded dietary data from ninety nine men (average age 36 years) and analyzed their semen samples; higher total dietary fat levels were linked with lower total sperm counts and concentration. Men whose total fat intake was in the highest third had 43% lower total sperm count and 38% lower sperm concentration when compared to men with fat intake in the lowest third.
The association between high fat intake and poor sperm count and concentration was especially pronounced when the dietary fat was saturated - think animal fats and red meat.
Conversely the study found that men who consumed more omega-3 fats - think fish and flax - had superior sperm morphology. The men who were in the highest third for omega-3 fatty acids intake had higher levels of sperm with normal morphology (shape) when compared to men whose omega-3 fat intake was in the lowest third. The study concluded that:
"In this preliminary cross-sectional study, high intake of saturated fats was negatively related to sperm concentration whereas higher intake of omega-3 fats was positively related to sperm morphology. Further, studies with larger samples are now required to confirm these findings."
Although many of the men in the study were overweight, the lead researcher Prof Attaman stated that:
"Notably, the frequency of overweight and obesity among men in this study does not differ much from that among men in the general population in the USA (74%)."
If you are trying to conceive and have poor sperm counts and concentration it may be wise to think about limiting saturated fats and eating more oily fish - think wild salmon - or to ask your physician about taking a good quality fish oil supplement. Farmed salmon may be high in PCBs according to some studies; PCBs are known reproductive toxins so wild salmon may be a more fertility-friendly choice. Be sure to discuss any dietary and nutritional supplement changes with your physician.
This article is purely for educational and informational purposes and is not intended to substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment for which you should consult a physician.
J. A. Attaman, T. L. Toth, J. Furtado, H. Campos, R. Hauser, J. E. Chavarro. Dietary fat and semen quality among men attending a fertility clinic. Human Reproduction, 2012; DOI: 10.1093/humrep/des065